The educational system was first created hundreds of years ago and has changed the human race over time by providing knowledge to everyone. But has the system itself actually changed? This pandemic has shown us how fragile the educational system actually is by highlighting all of its flaws, but it has also shown us that change is possible.
A lot of educators, parents and students have been complaining about the outdated rules, curricula and learning methods and feel that learners should benefit from modern teaching approaches based on their needs, interests, profiles and that are more relevant to their environment and personal context. The percentage of homeschooled children has doubled during the pandemic, but studies show it was actually already on the rise before COVID.
Knowing that the traditional school was built to support industrialism and standardization, some new equitable educational models have been gaining popularity as they are based not on academic ability, but on acknowledging, welcoming and accommodating different types of learners.
Here are 8 of the most popular alternative educational systems:
Unschooling is a form of homeschooling, which is the education of children at home or other places rather than in a school. It involves teaching children based on their interests rather than a set curriculum. Unschooling is an educational method that replaces a formal teaching with individualized learning through curiosity-driven experiences.
It is based on the idea that children can direct their own learning, at their own pace, without the rigid structures of formal education. Instead of following curricula, students are given a supportive setting that fosters their natural curiosity about the world.
It’s believed that this curiosity can develop into formal learning, even without formal schooling — hence the term “unschooling.”
“Unschooling promotes individualized learning by allowing the learner to make their own choices regarding what and how they learn. The role of the parent is to provide the learner with an environment that fosters their natural curiosity. This may involve providing activities and support that help develop this curiosity into learning new things.
Generally, parents who choose to unschool take a more hands-off approach. For example, unschooling doesn’t rely on workbooks or textbooks. Instead, learners may choose to use any of the following methods to find new information:
There are no tests or grades to measure competency. There are no deadlines or goals set by the teacher. Any personal goals are decided on by the learner and are worked on at their own pace. With unschooling, the learner continues to learn naturally through interactions in their everyday life.”
World schooling is an educational movement that recognizes that a student can receive no greater education than by experiencing and interacting with the world around them. For families able to make it work, this often involves traveling together and using the journeys to enhance their children’s education.
Unlike unschooling, world schooling is led by the parents, as they are the ones who decide which places they’ll visit and what they’ll be learning from it. Parents can choose to either homeschool their children or for their children to attend the school in the country they’re traveling to, to discover new ways of learning and teaching as well.
When parents decide to worldschool their kids, they probably have the means for it or have the opportunity to work remotely. The purpose of world schooling is to introduce children to different cultures, give them wider knowledge of the world around them so they can become more sensitive to other world views. The children can learn experimentally through a holistic approach, discover their passions and talents, and solidify their knowledge with their experiences.
Montessori is a method of education that is based on self-directed activity, hands-on learning and collaborative play. In Montessori classrooms, children make creative choices in their learning, while the classroom and the highly trained teacher offer activities to guide the process.
For more than a century now, the child-focused approach that Dr. Maria Montessori, an Italian physician, developed for educating children has been transforming schools around the globe. The Montessori Method fosters rigorous, self-motivated growth for children and adolescents in all areas of their development—cognitive, emotional, social, and physical.
Montessori education is student-led and self-paced but guided by specifically trained teachers who accompany the children in groups in a multi-aged classroom. The students follow their own curiosity at their own pace and can take all the time they need to fully understand each concept and meet individualized learning goals.
Agile Learning Centers are an expanding network of intentional learning communities leveraging agile tools to support Self-Directed Education. They are based on self-direction, where children can choose to follow their passions, which makes them engage more deeply and learn more quickly and thoroughly. They also focus on creating a culture where children feel like they are heard, they belong, and they make a difference, and a vibrant community which heightens communication skills and builds confidence.
“Agile Learning Centers prize self-direction, and they give kids genuine freedom throughout most of the day. But ALCs also believe that self-direction works best when done with intention, and to this end, every ALCs creates daily space for intention and reflection (typically through brief small-group meetings). For the community as a whole, there are also weekly meetings that set the schedule and tweak the school culture using a decision-making system that aims for consensus. ALCs believe that this lightweight scaffolding is, on balance, more helpful and supportive than it is intrusive.
ALCs see themselves as intentional, consent-oriented communities that help young people make the most of their freedom.”
The Reggio Emilia approach is an educational philosophy and pedagogy focused on preschool and primary education. This approach is a student-centered and self-guided curriculum that uses self-directed, experiential learning in relationship-driven environments. The program is based on the principles of respect, responsibility and community through exploration, discovery and play.
At the core of this philosophy is an assumption that children form their own personality during the early years of development and that they are endowed with “a hundred languages”, through which they can express their ideas. The aim of the Reggio approach is to teach children how to use these symbolic languages (e.g. painting, sculpting, drama) in everyday life.
A flipped classroom is a type of blended learning where students are introduced to content at home and practice working through it at school. This is the reverse of the more common practice of introducing new content at school, then assigning homework and projects to completed by the students independently at home.
In this model, instructors have students interact with new material for homework first. They then use class time to discuss the new information and put those ideas into practice.
The Waldorf method of teaching is a unique educational strategy which aims to create well-rounded students through a broad curriculum, including academics, art and music education, physical education, and emotional and social education. The stated goal of the Waldorf Method is to produce individuals able to create meaning in their own lives.
The Waldorf method encourages a broad curriculum. Teachers are encouraged to explore new topics and allow themselves to be guided by the exploration of the students. This type of teaching encourages learning for the sake of learning, instead of for the sake of passing an exam or scoring well on grading rubrics. There are no grades given in a Waldorf elementary school.
Interestingly, Waldorf education throws out letter grades in favor of student narratives, teacher-student conferences, and class meetings. However, Waldorf high school students still receive a GPA to support a seamless transition to higher education.
A Sudbury school is a type of school, usually for the K-12 age range, where students have complete responsibility for their own education, and the school is run by a direct democracy in which students and staff are equal citizens.
Students use their time however they wish, and learn as a by-product of ordinary experience rather than through coursework. There is no predetermined educational syllabus, prescriptive curriculum or standardized instruction.
This is a form of democratic education. Daniel Greenberg, one of the founders of the original Sudbury Model school, writes that the two things that distinguish a Sudbury Model school are that everyone is treated equally (adults and children together) and that there is no authority other than that granted by the consent of the governed. 
These methods all have different philosophies and approaches, but what we can find in common is that they are all connected to a more child-led approach, and are based on critical thinking, freedom of choice and creativity, and on the personalization of the learning journey based on the student’ needs and pace.
They are all based on the idea that each child is unique and can only thrive in the environment that is best for them, as opposed to the idea of standardized curricula and tests. This new way of thinking might finally prompt school systems to be open to change, and listen to Dr. Maxwell wise words when he says:
“Our job is to teach the student we have. Not the ones we would like to have. Not the one we used to have. Those who we have right now. All of them.”
 Lockett Alisha, https://www.healthline.com/health/childrens-health/unschooling, What is Unschooling and why do parents consider it ?, September 2019.
 BOLES Blake, Agile Learning Centers, Liberated Learners, and Sudbury Schools: What’s the Difference?, https://www.self-directed.org/tp/three-popular-models/, December 2018.
 GREENBERG Daniel, A Place to Grow, Sudbury Valley School Press, 2016