Why does school even exist?

2 min readJan 25, 2023

One commonly held belief is that schools exist solely to:

a) impart knowledge and;

b) prepare students for the workforce.

However, this is only a small part of the true purpose of schools.

The problem with this belief is that it limits the potential of schools to have a much broader impact on society. Result? A narrow focus on academic achievement and an obsession with getting a job (or going to university before getting a job!), rather than developing well-rounded individuals who can contribute to society in a variety of ways.

To shift a mindset from “old” to “new”, we all need to re-examine the purpose of education and consider the benefits of a more holistic approach to learning. One actionable step is to seek out alternative education models and see how they differ from traditional schools. Models like Democratic Schools that Yaacov Hecht established.

We can expect to see a focus on developing well-rounded individuals who can contribute to society in a variety of ways but this will require a personalised and self-directed approach to education.

The old is going away for good.

The traditional model of education is becoming increasingly outdated as society evolves and new technologies emerge.

The pillars of democratic schools should be the foundations of every forward-thinking school.

We live in a democratic community

Every Friday, students and teachers meet together to make decisions. One person = one vote, including the Principal. They make decisions together — and that helps give children a voice and build accountability.

Every student has a personalised learning plan

There is no one-size-fits-all. The students choose what they want to learn (this is a bit of a theme of lots of the revolutionary schools we have studied and discussed on the podcast).

What you find in the traditional school is that they try to make us the same. At the same time, no matter how bored I am, we sit with people who are the same age and we learn the same things. In the democratic school everyone learns differently, in mixed ages.

Yaacov Hecht

Students choose their own personal mentor

Teachers are there to support learners and thus, children need to feel safe and cared for. They need to feel they have a level of control of who they learn with and from, rather than it be dictated to them.

Everything we learn is from the perspective of human rights

This is foundational to the curriculum. Many national curricula are just that, nationalistic. This means that we study our culture, history and literature. In democratic schools, it is every human and each person’s rights is front and centre in learning.

Different is beautiful

Yaacov Hecht

Perhaps the most enlightening element of what this wonderful Israeli educator is building is the expectation that every student is a teacher and every teacher is a student. The commitment to lifelong learning, beyond a government buzzphrase, is evident. Ongoing teacher development is prioritised but also, students are trusted to be peer educators.

Read this post and more on my Typeshare Social Blog