‘Deschooling Society’: Revisiting a Classic | Harbord & Khan | 4 Min Read

February 16, 2023

Expectations of teachers grow. Expectations of schools grow. How we learn, and how we deliver what we want to teach have evolved in the past couple of years. The pandemic has changed how everyone learns and how everyone lives, and we would be very foolish to ignore this lesson. However, we would also be very foolish not to see this change as an opportunity to examine what we do, how we do it, and how it has been done before.

In 1970, Ivan Illich’s Deschooling Society was first released. This book criticizes society’s institutionalized education because it constrains when we learn to a brief period of our lives. Considered radical at that time, Deschooling Society was once essential reading in education courses during the 1980s. In his opening chapter, Illich outlines why we must disestablish schools and explains that schooling should not be confused with education as well as teaching with learning. Although it is not an easy read, it is still relevant since Deschooling Society addresses many of the same issues that concern educators today. 

In the table below, we show how ideas from Deschooling Society still relate:

1970’s Ivan Illich–(Roman Catholic priest, theologian, philosopher, and social critic). 2022 
A good educational system should have three purposes:
1. All learners who want to learn should have access to resources at any time.
2. Empower those who want to share their learning with those who want to learn. 
3. Furnish those who want to present an issue to the public the opportunities to make the challenges known.
Today’s equivalent:

1. Lifelong learning.

2. Collaborative learning.

3. Purposeful learning and real-life issues. 

Match the right highly motivated teacher with the right highly motivated student in an intelligent program Vocational training, mentoring, apprenticeships
Match people according to their interest in learning Differentiation and Interest-based  learning
Create learning collaborations between colleagues as learning webs Opportunities for interdisciplinary /multidisciplinary teaching and learning.

As we developed our ideas for this article, we discovered others who are exploring similar themes with reference to Illich’s thinking (Rincones et al., 2021) but extend the idea of “forced” deschooling of society caused by the pandemic. The mandatory closure of schools resulting from the pandemic, in effect, nullified many features of our…

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Harbord and Khan

Meredith Harbord EdD and Sara Riaz Khan are global educators who use ethical dilemmas to enrich and transform curriculum. Their student centric approach is driven by an ethical model and innovative tools that support critical thinking and creativity. Meredith and Sara’s collaboration as Design teachers at ABA Oman International School in Muscat, focused on sustainability, ethical design and global mindedness and inspired them to establish Harbord & Khan Educational Consultants. They develop units of work based on real world issues to engage and challenge students for diverse curriculums (IB, PBL, Common Core and Australian) and are available for professional development and to create programs to meet the specific needs of your school. Meredith and Sara have authored two teacher curriculum books ‘Interdisciplinary Thinking for Schools: Ethical Dilemmas MYP 1, 2 & 3’ and ‘Interdisciplinary Thinking for Schools: Ethical Dilemmas MYP 4 & 5’ (2020). Website: https://bit.ly/3XopEzQ