Amsterdam, May 8 (IANS) A school in the Netherlands has no classes, no classrooms and not even a curriculum in a break from the conventional approach applied in educational institutions across the world.
“We get around 70 requests a week from all over the world from people wanting to come and see what we do here,” according to Rob Houben, Manager of the Agora school in Roermond, the Netherlands.
“And I turn most of them down, I just don’t have the time to do all that!” Houben, who can be called the school’s principal or headteacher, told online publishing platform Medium.com.
The school’s entire approach is centred around projects as it focuses on “learning, not teaching”.
Students at Agora range from 12 to 18 years in age and each of them is given control over their own educational journey. They are able to explore and learn about topics and things which interest them.
There are diverse subjects offered to choose from — such as German mountain guides, Mongolian horses, blacksmithing, Harry Potter patronuses, tables and skateboards.
The staff here are responsible for around 17 students each and they have to ensure there are tangible results and genuine development, as well as work with each student on ways to continue developing the learning journey.
Houben described Agora “as a blend of a university (where you have knowledge), a Buddhist monastery (where you can think), a theme park (where you can play) and a communal marketplace (where you can trade and swap things)”.
Each student has a desk, which they are encouraged to customise. One has the front of a car attached to it, which was built with the help of a local scrapyard.
Agora students say what they enjoy most about the school is “the freedom to explore and learn whatever they want”.
“People look strangely at us. They think because of their school experience you have to have things like four mathematics lessons a week, but in the Netherlands, that isn’t the case. The government only asks you to bring students to a certain level within a certain time period,” said Houben.
This school also allows ubiquitous mobile phone and Internet use.
“All our children have Chromebooks for free, so they (students) have access to the Internet all day. We allow them to use their phones, all day, because you need to learn how not to use your phone in certain moments.
And you don’t learn that when you put your phone in a locker or container because then you have to have a container your whole life,” according to Houben.
There are currently 250 students in the school, with a long waiting list of others wanting to join.
Agora tracks the students’ progress by Egodact — a piece of software designed by three students.