When schools resumed about a month ago, not all students went back to a ‘regular’ school building with hallways lined with lockers. The Train Platform School in India, was set up by Inderjit Khurana in 1985, and it’s exactly like it sounds. Students without access to regular classrooms, gather at train stations where they are taught how to read and write. Since its inception, more than 4,000 ‘street’ kids have been educated via the program.
Before you write this off as only possible in ‘developing’ countries, many ‘first-world’ countries have their share of kooky school locations, alternative teaching methods and courses. If you’re a fan of the original ‘Fab Four’, Liverpool Hope University has a masters degree devoted to the Beatles. Abo Elementary School in southern New Mexico, served double duty as a bomb shelter and an elementary school, in the 1960s.
Ever heard of Hamburger University? Yes, McDonalds built and runs a school, and no, it won’t teach you how to flip burgers. The Illinois-based school was designed to teach McDonald’s staff about the various aspects of restaurant management. Training over 7,000 students per year, Hamburger U., has graduated more than 80,000 restaurant managers since 1961.
While some schools are focused on teaching, others have turned the idea of teaching on its head. In 1961, a school opened in London, that had one simple rule; there were no rules! Lessons were voluntary, smoking in class was permitted, you could even ride your motorbike on school grounds – basically giving students freedom to do anything they wanted. The school was a social experiment to test the effect of going against all accepted schooling conventions. After the experiment ran its course, the school soon closed down.
With any preconceived notion of what schooling should be shaken up, here are 10 more schools that eschew traditional teaching methods and courses for… well, their way.
10. MICROSOFT’S SCHOOL OF THE FUTURE, PHILADELPHIA
When Microsoft announced a partnership with the West Philly School District in 2003, it seemed like an odd pairing. The parrtnership involved designing, developing and launching a new type of school; one that ‘prepared students for a changing world.’
When West Philadelphia’s School of the Future was opened in 2006, they did things a bit differently. Every student was expected to have a laptop; math lessons were learned using Microsoft’s OneNote and lockers were accessed using a ‘chipped’ ID card.
Despite the hi-tech environment, cracks started showing up. Making the leap from a traditional curriculum to a 100% digital learning one proved difficult for many students. The teachers struggled with the amount of technology they had to use in their lessons. All these led to mistakes which culminated in the school plummeting in the district’s educational assessment standards.
All that is water under the bridge now, as the unconventional SOF has become a roaring success. Students are scoring better grades and the school has become the second most requested school in the city.
9. DONGZHONG MID-CAVE PRIMARY SCHOOL
In a region suffering from acute water and food shortage due to to desertification, most families would focus on getting by than worry about education. But in one of the worst hit provinces of Southwestern China, Guizhou, the community prioritized education, despite having little government support.
With no space for school buildings, they turned to the one thing they have in abundance; caves. In 1984, the villagers opened an elementary school in a cave carved into the side of a mountain. Named Dongzhong Mid-Cave Primary, the school catered to over 180 kids. Teachers praised the ‘unique learning environment’ as it bestowed certain benefits. They claim there were better acoustics during singing lessons and a wide variety of fauna for studying biology. They even had a make-shift basketball court to play in during recess.
Unfortunately, the Mid-Cave school was closed by the Chinese government in 2011, stating “China is not a society of cavemen.” We hope they realize that having the cave school was infinitely better than having no school in the region.