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Specifics of the Vision 2020 by 2020 Pilot Projects

“Democracy does not arise as a result of imposed or structured political practices, but as a dynamic, liberating force, nurtured by the people themselves.”

– Living and Learning – The Hall-Dennis Report, Ontario Department of Education, 1968, p. 21

The pilot projects being promoted by Vision 2020 by 2020 are not radical and they can be implemented with no additional funding and no changes to government directives. The study of what happens when students are given more control over their learning can be done without straying far from what is familiar. This increases the prospects of widespread involvement in creating and participating in the pilots.

There is in fact little that is new about the pilots. The essence of them is to simply extend to all students, methods that have proven to be successful with students at risk. If the methods work with students at risk, then it’s logical to study what happens if they are applied before students become labeled and disengaged.

Human rights and democratic processes are fundamental to the pilot programs. Everyone is equally welcome to participate in making decisions that affect them. The one-person-one-vote principle applies, but not before consensus seeking, compromise, and compassion for those holding minority views have been exercised. When common sense and mediation cannot resolve a dispute between participants, one of the parties can lodge a complaint. A judicial committee comprised of a teacher and several students then holds a hearing and makes a judgment. The program therefore mirrors the bigger world as much as can be expected.

Students carry the same course load as they would in the regular program, but free of the constraints of scheduling, they can opt to work on courses they might otherwise not be able to take. They are also able to work at their own pace, and in the absence of bells telling them to change subjects and classrooms, they can work uninterrupted on the subject of their choice when they want and for as long as they want. This allows them to use their time efficiently. They can spend extra time on the subjects as needed, and less on the ones they find less challenging.

Students in the program are to be, as much as possible, a cross-section of the parent school’s student body. A commitment to learning is the only criterion for acceptance into the program. Where demand for the program is more than can be accommodated, tailoring the enrolment to reflect a good cross-section of students is recommended. A good cross-section increases the opportunities for students to learn from each other. The idea that everyone is a teacher and a learner is promoted. Students who teach others reinforce previous learning; they develop their communication skills, and they get to practice being responsible. There is a saying: “If you want to feel good about yourself, do something for someone else.” Cross-age learning environments provide endless opportunities for students to do something for others. A good cross-section also provides for a better study of what happens when students are given more control over their learning.

Teachers working in the program act as facilitators and co-learners. As co-learners they can demonstrate the skills and attitudes of model students. The skills required for self-directed learning are the common curriculum, and it is the development of these skills that leads students towards independence and the assuming of responsibility for self.


Elements of the Vision 2020 by 2020 Pilot Projects

In point form a pilot project would be built upon the following elements. These elements derive from a similar pilot program known as the CHIP program that ran during the first semester of two consecutive school years. Its annual enrolment averaged 25 grades 10 to 12 students in a secondary school housing roughly 800 students.


  1. The one criterion for participation in a pilot is a commitment to learning.
  1. The program can run for the whole year or for one semester each year. Students could opt into it or out of a pilot at the beginning or end of each semester or year. (For more on this read: The Opt-In, Opt-Out Advantage.)
  1. To properly develop and study what happens when students have more control over their learning, a commitment to run the program for a minimum of five years is needed. This is assuming that the program continues to attract a sufficient number of students.
  1. Applying the concept of a school-within-a-school a pilot program would start out occupying a single classroom in a neighborhood secondary school. Success could lead to expansion beyond one classroom. (Please read: A note to Parents and Teachers of Younger Children. Also see: How the CHIP Students Organized Their Classroom, and The Magnet School Option.)
  1. Outside the classroom the students would be required to follow the same rules as other students. They would also be entitled to participate in all of the extra-curricular activities available to other students.
  1. The pupil-to-teacher ratio would be the norm of approximately 25-to-1.
  1. The program could be conducted by a single teacher, or by a two-teacher team where only one of the teachers is on duty at any given time.
  1. The cross-age goal would be to have a span of at least three grade levels. The wider the span the greater the potential benefits of cross-age mixing.
  1. Students and teachers function as equals. Decisions are made through democratic processes.  A judicial committee of students and one teacher would handle complaints that could not be resolved in a more appropriate manner.
  1. Students would have the same course load as students in the regular program, typically four courses per semester. Students could choose to work on fewer courses if they wanted more time to follow a particular interest or to lay a better base in a subject like math. To avoid a credit grabbing mentality the students would not be permitted to obtain more credits than they could get in the regular program. (For more on this read: Piagetian Learning.)

Access to computers is something that will need to be considered. Students’ courses could be limited to those that do not require computer access at school. Students might go to the library, school lab or resource center to use them, or they might bring in their own laptops. Another option is to equip the classroom with some computers. Internet access is something that also needs to be considered if computers are to be used in the classroom.

Although the pilot programs are conservative in nature, collectively they could confirm that everyone benefits when students have more control over their learning. With this established the stage is set for more advanced studies.


“If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking.” – Buddhist Proverb

The Vision 2020 by 2020 initiative is inspired by a campaign described by the Heath Brothers in their book titled: Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard. The U.S. Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) introduced a program to save 100,000 patients’ lives in only 18 months by having hospitals adopt at least 1 of 6 changes to patient treatment. Within the first two months 1000 hospitals had joined the campaign, and over 2000 more joined in. An estimated 122,300 lives were saved by the end of the 18 months.

Educators are not unlike hospital personnel. They have chosen to serve others and want to do it to the best of their abilities. With over 3000 hospitals in the U.S. alone participating in a campaign that lasted only 18 months, it is reasonable to think that by the year 2020 many public schools worldwide will get involved in contributing to a clear vision of what happens when students are given more control over their learning. The idea of saving lives inspired medical professionals, and Vision 2020 by 2020 promises to save children.

The purpose in aiming to involve a large number of schools is that there is much that comes into play in determining if giving students more autonomy translates into saving children and saving public education. Some pilot projects may be highly successful, others less so; some may fail. The more pilots we have the more chance there is of getting a proper reading on the affects of students being given more control over their learning.

One of the things that led to the IHI campaign being so successful is that the changes it promoted were simple to understand and easy to implement. The pilots proposed by Vision 2020 by 2020 are also easy to understand and easy to implement.

NextPotential Benefits of Extending Control to Learners.

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