Some schools, particularly ahead of the curve and looking to the future, such as Open Mind Accelerated International Academy (www.openmindvirtualschool.com) have managed to pull through. Meet Jean Arnaud, the school’s founder.
Can the pandemic be seen as the source of an educational revolution?
It can be said that the pandemic has accelerated everything that the pioneers of digital education had tried to explore, and normalized an education that was conceived as marginal, reserved for high-potential profiles, for example, or for those who had made the choice of homeschooling. We started before the pandemic because we believe that the physical school is outdated and belongs to the past because of its rigidity, its lack of diversity, its inability to form children capable of thinking about the future or capable of inventing it. The school is almost exclusively conceived as a space of sociability, as a huge day care center that everyone has lost the deep sense of what school is: a place where values are learned, citizen behaviors, but also where we learn to think, to analyze, to debate, to collaborate, to manipulate, to create. Parents turned to us when they realized that their own schools were unable to rebound or adapt to the new situation. We offered a safer environment with small class sizes (12 maximum), we used powerful and professional software, we adopted an active, creative and accelerated pedagogy. The parents quickly understood everything that did not work in traditional schools and that they did not know. What is certain is that mass education is outdated. As long as there are 20 students in a class, there can be no individualized education. We know that this mass education is not capable of adapting fast to new situations and creating quick solutions to problems. This is what sometimes our leaders lack: the analytical and creative spirit of solutions. This is what our leaders also lack: the analytical and creative spirit of solutions. Our managers often reproduce existing models.
The experience of online schools that parents had during pandemic does not reflect the real efficiency and potential of online classes. Many physical schools were forced in a short time to bring their programs online and lacked experience in doing so. The real online schools are already created with a vision to be fully digital, hence their classes and programs are more adapted to today’s needs.
The fxed school rhythms are too rigid for nowadays lifestyle. These rhythms lead to a culture of inefficiency where those who work long hours are rewarded, whereas the start-up culture that will be predominant in the future with a proliferation of freelancers and self-employed people requires versatile and efficient people. No one cares what time an employee arrives as long as the objectives are met and the company progresses. In the same way, a child who is able to go faster must be able to do so, and a child who needs more time must be given more time to complete tasks and understand. There are many ways to get to the top of a mountain, nothing says that the shortest is the richest. Some people get excited about the idea of crossing several of them, others only like the path, others take pleasure in contemplating. The online school is a step towards more personalized education which benefits students more than physical school. For a long time it was believed that doing mathematics was the ultimate key to success in Tech. It appears that today literary and philosophical profiles are
also successful in tech positions bringing new perspectives and ideas, perhaps because before building a machine, it is necessary to be able to think of it not only as a machine but in its context and to consider the mutations that it can bring about on an intellectual and social level…
The school must leave more room for manipulation, activity and creation. This is what our school is trying to develop. We believe that we can be a positive response to our society, which is in the process of completing its digital revolution: we offer the possibility for a child to be anywhere in the world, to create an international network, to speak several languages, to make his or her own “school” and to add to his or her course modules that can give him or her the keys to serenely approach the future, to think about it, to invent it, to shape it.
What are the differences between the so-called “traditional” school and what you offer with your online school?
We are proposing a system that we believe is more adapted to face the future. We have put an end to overcrowded classes and are working with our “Nova” platform to set up a system capable of individualizing teaching. We offer complementary teaching in modules that allow us to compose an education adapted to each child. We provide modern, multilingual teaching with innovative modules based on a creative project-based pedagogy because we know that we never learn better than by manipulating, by creating with others. Our teaching is particularly rigorous with frequent competitions that allow our students to maintain real enthusiasm and see their projects highlighted. We teach our students not only to think, to analyze the world but also to reinvent it in a spirit of caring and collaboration. Our students are also taught to use professional software such as photoshop, canva, procreate, logicpro, finalcutpro and new technologies such as 3D printers. Our students write books and design them from scratch, create 3D children’s magazines, build 3D houses, create companies, invent machines, write and deliver speeches, edit films and documentaries that they have written with amazing results. Everyone who comes to us knows that we are the future of education.
How will the school be transformed in the years to come?
I believe that initially the hybrid system will take hold in the most advanced schools. In fact, it is with these schools that we have undertaken to form partnerships with Open Mind Accelerated International Academy. They offer the stability of the academic world with its rigor and its degree programs. We complement them by bringing our expertise in the field of French but also with our innovative courses in French and English. Our modules in entrepreneurship for young children, music and digital arts, creative writing, and creative engineering are all contributions that enrich the offerings of traditional schools. We are responding to this problem – in my opinion fundamental – of the school today which is behind the world and therefore cannot teach how to think about it, nor how to reinvent it. Other schools will try to recover the habits of the pre-covid world, as did some companies that refuse to move to remote work, with the inevitable problem that this world no longer exists. In the same way that Tesla forced other car manufacturers to step out of their comfort zones and reinvest in systems capable of producing cleaner engines, we are forcing traditional schools to change their approaches with more active and creative pedagogies, methods and tools, often obsolete.