This three-word rhetorical masterpiece has been plentiful in recent political debates both in the Czech Republic, the UK, and other countries. It has also been bubbling in the head of Czech Republic´s leading educational innovator Ondřej Šteffl. But in a slightly different sense. While the former called for secession from the villainous EU bureaucrats, Ondřej Šteffl – founder of PORG – the first private school in the Czech Republic established after the fall of communism – has been urging the public, schools the and government to join their efforts in reshaping the way we learn, pointing out that the traditional old-school model of passively learning facts and reciting them out became obsolete in the modern world. Solving today´s problems require students to take responsibility and control for their own learning. To develop a deep passion for learning. How else can they become eager lifelong learners?
And because Ondřej and his privately owned company SCIO could not see the light at the end of the 200 years long tunnel of conventional, traditional teaching in the Czech lands, they decided to establish their own network of SCIOschools all over the Czech Republic.
Inspired by free school movement, ideas of Maria Montessori, cognitive sciences and many others, they created a unique learning space, where children work in mixed age groups, where younger learn from the older, and the older learn to help others, where teachers are called “guides” as their mission is not to deliver prefabricated content to be swallowed and immediately forgotten by poor pupils, but rather to support and help develop every child´s inherent and natural desire to learn. The students are encouraged to come up with their own learning ideas, goals and projects, actively building their new knowledge and skills base. Therefore most teaching is carried out in projects where students explore real-world problems and challenges, instead of disconnected subjects.
And what do Czech authorities think about this unorthodox approach?
“All our four existing school have successfully passed the inspection by the Czech School Inspectorate with excellent awards,” Ondřej Šteffl proudly commented in his recent blog.
The success and high demand for SCIOschooling have led the founders to establish more schools in Prague, Jihlava, Frýdek-Místek but also to offer new models of education.
“There is a great myth entrenched deep in our culture, leading us to a common assumption that learning happens only in a school five days a week,” says Scio´s Andrej Novik.
“Learning happens everywhere. We do not live anymore in the industrial age where children have to be secluded from their mothers and fathers so that the parents can go to factories to earn their daily bread. More and more parents are flexible regarding time, work and leisure. There is a growing number of parents who do not want to give control over the education of their children completely in the hands of the state. As a result, for example, we can observe a growing trend of homeschooling.” – says Andrej Novik and continues
“Therefore our next logical step is to offer flexible learning solution. And that´s why we decided to launch our ScioHouse project in October this year. We want to give the freedom to learn to both parents and children”.
The ScioHouse is intended to become a free and inspirational hub for all educational innovators in the Czech Republic. It will be located near the Dejvická metro station in Prague 6, in the building of the newly opened SCIOSCHOOL, welcoming children, parents, teachers, and students in workshops, conferences and complete educational programmes.
Kateřina Netíková, SCIO´s specialist in homeschooling, describes “Flexible learning means for us the support that we want to provide to parents and families who either teach their children at home or look for inspiring flexible educational programmes for their children. This year we´ll be opening two programmes for children aged 6-12, that in a mixed group they will work for half-year in two-days-a- week courses. During the lessons, we´ll work on real-life projects simultaneously focusing on children´s creativity, ability to learn while discovering and developing each child´s strengths. The courses will be taught by our experienced learning guides with one speaking Czech and the other in English. So it will be a great opportunity for all children who are in command of any of these languages to experience the joy of learning.”
The next months will reveal whether SCIO´s bet on flexible learning was the right one. But given the popularity of SCIOSCHOOLs (there are dozens of children applying for one available place), we could soon be observing the beginning of a new trend in education.