Leistungen // Laterales Management

steve jobs' ideas about education

Lots of people who read Walter Isaacson’s exciting biography of SteveJobs a couple of years ago still remember the part where Steve Jobs was discussing a new digital education system with Barack Obama. Jobs is supposed to have been very frustrated by how little chance Obama gave his ideas of being implemented.

UNESCO adopted Jobs’ ideas ten years ago and gave children in Eritrea iPads equipped with self-directed learning programmes. The primary school-aged children had not gone to school and were supposed to use the iPads to teach themselves Maths and how to write. The project was a success.

The entrepreneur Maurice de Hond was looking for a primary school for one of his daughters and in doing so discovered that schools were still teaching in much the same way that they had when he was at school 30 years ago. “Children are living in a completely different world but are stuck in an outdated system”, he rages. “And then we reproach them for not being able to concentrate but they have no problem doing this in front of a computer”, the entrepreneur continues. He wanted to change this and, in cooperation with experts in education, he developed the “Steve Jobs School”. There have been “Steve Jobsschools” in Holland for two years now.

Pupils at “Steve Jobs schools” perform better than pupils at conventional schools

At the “Steve Jobs school”, each child is given an iPad equipped with self-directed learning programmes; teachers view their role as that of a coach (key: 1 teacher is allocated to 20 children) and the pupils decide what they learn and when. However, in the end a certain standard has to be achieved in the core subjects. The most recent assessments of these learning objectives show that pupils at Steve Jobs schools perform on average 40 percent better than pupils at conventional schools.

There are now 25 Steve Jobs schools and a further 15 will open next year. The learning concept is also setting a precedent in Spain and South Africa and the trend is upwards. At present, 8,000 children attend Steve Jobs schools in Holland.

A one-time investment of around 40,000 euros is needed to convert a school to the Steve Jobs concept. The entrepreneur Maurice de Hond has made a business out of this. He has delegated an employee to support primary schools in switching to the concept.

Attempts have also been made to implement the concept in Germany. The result was predictable: not even pilot schools, in which the educational concept could be tested, are being set up.

Tablets equipped with self-directed learning programmes

At present, there are appr. 200,000 migrant children in Germany, who need to be taught maths, foreign languages, the German language and European culture. Tablets equipped with self-directed learning programmes, which combine their native language with new educational content, would help them integrate easily. The investment needed would certainly be less than training educational specialists in the various native languages. It would, however, be quite innovative.

My granddaughter attends a progressive education school in Heidelberg. The methods of Kerschensteiner and Bernfeld are still applied there. They both revolutionised the German and Austrian school system in the 1920s. To be sure, their descendants seem to be able to apply their methods in Germany; however, they do not seem to be able to transfer the ideas of progressive education into the 21st century. De Hond believes it is also easier to get het-up about difficult children who are unwilling to learn and achieve poor PISA results. Steve Jobs had imagined this differently but he did not manage any schools either.