“Allow me to present to those who refuse to believe these successive improvements of the human species an example taken from the sciences where the march of truth is the
safest, where it can be measured more accurately . These elementary truths of geometry and astronomy which had been in India and in Egypt a secret doctrine on which
ambitious priests had founded their empire, were in Greece at the time of Archimedes and Hipparchus , vulgar knowledge taught in public schools. In the last century, it
took only a few years of study to know everything that Archimedes and Hipparchus could have known , and today two years of the teaching of a teacher go beyond what
Liebniz or Newton knew. Let us meditate this example, and seize this chain that extends from a priest of Memphis to Euler , and fills the immense distance which
separates them ; let us observe at each epoch the genius ahead of the current century, and mediocrity up to what he had discovered in the one that preceded it , we shall
learn that nature has given us the means to save time and spare attention, and there is no reason to believe that these means may have an end .“
These words were written by Condorcet two centuries ago in the 1790s in his book “Cinq mémoires sur l’instruction publique” (Five papers on public education).
Liebniz and Newton were scientists who lived about a century before Condorcet’s time , so for our period of time they could be replaced by scientists such as Einstein , Schrodinger and others from the twentieth century.Nowadays young people learn the (updated) scientific theories of Newton (about calculus, gravitation , etc) during their secondary studies or as beginning college/university students.Einstein’s theories and relativity and quantum physics are taught in introductory courses at the secondary
‘level’ ( I use the word level between quotations because I think it has a meaning related to the existing educational system and it should be analyzed more thoroughly) and taught in detail during the college or university studies.
We can infer that in a few years or decades the scientific theories taught in higher education will be more and more understood by younger people and taught to students at a younger age.Of course these scientific theories could be changed and reformed or replaced by newer theories or discoveries , and the more recent or difficult theories will be taught at an older age , and so on.
One thing or fact to be taken into consideration is that the change and progress in scientific knowledge , information or theories should be accompanied by a reassessment of and a change in the educational system , framework or methods within which this information is given or taught.
The schools and especially the universities and established higher education institutions nowadays follow educational practices , methods or systems that originated two or three centuries ago in countries such as France , Great Britain or Germany , obviously because these countries were the most advanced during that time.Many colleges and universities in the United States also follow these European models , and many countries that were French , British or European colonies have also copied or followed these models.Hence a global education system surfaced where most countries and nations follow or imitate these educational models.
When young people of a similar age are placed in one same class , they may not all think , study or behave the same way.There are students who are average , slow ,or fast learners . The fast ones are sometimes called gifted , talented or precocious , having exceptional aptitudes or abilities.In most cases this means that at their age ( let’s call it age X) they think or behave in a way in which other students will think and behave at a later age (for example at the age X+2 or X+5 etc ).
Suppose we have a classroom where most students are approximately 10 years old.A fast child or student would be someone who thinks , behaves , studies and understands things at age 10 in a certain way.At that same age of 10 the average or not so fast students would be thinking and behaving as the fast one did when he was perhaps 8 or 7 years old.Conversely these average students would think , behave and study the same way as the fast kid is doing when he’s 10 years old but for them this will happen at the age of 13 or 15 or probably 18…
To use an expression from Piaget we could say that fast kids pass through faster stages of (intellectual or cognitive ) development.
When students of a similar age are put in the same classroom without any differentiation it is usually the average learners who are taken into consideration and who succeed.Both the slow and fast ones would suffer and have bad results .The fast or ‘gifted’ ones would be placed in classrooms and in an educational system which they cannot adapt to and which is not adapted to their capabilities.Consequently they are misunderstood and have their needs neglected.They might even fail like slow students in such detrimental educational settings and conditions , but for completely different and opposite reasons.The situation could become somewhat disturbing and nightmarish when these fast learners , who have more advanced thinking , behavior and stages or phases of intellectual development than all of their classmates ,find themselves forced to resort to cheating or to exam fraud in this education system which doesn’t notice them , ignores them or doesn’t treat them well .At the end nothing works for them and they may realize it’s better for them to leave the system , even without a (final) degree .
At a global international scale, students who follow the existing national educational curricula and go through all the years of primary and secondary (often compulsory) education end up going to colleges and universities at the average age of 18.This age may be the current characteristic age taken for granted as the age of the start of higher education studies, but this is one of the concepts or factors that ought to be reformed and changed by accelerating education and lowering the age of entry to institutions of higher learning.
Today new and alternative theories and methods of education are emerging , from academic acceleration and skipping grades to homeschooling and unschooling to online education and e-learning , etc.
Autodidacticism and self-education can always be valuable and useful ways to acquire knowledge. Most great scientists , thinkers and innovators had to be autodidacts at some period of their lives.Even if they learned from teachers and studied in recognized educational institutions , they had sometimes to read books and learn about new concepts and theories which were not a part of the official curricula in order to create important original ideas and theories on their own .Public libraries (and the more recent online libraries) and college or university libraries which allow people who are not registered students or staff to borrow books are noteworthy and helpful places for educating oneself , increasing one’s knowledge and doing personal research , more or less independently of the existing educational system.
Apart from becoming autodidacts or unschooled , I think that young people and students should be taught in a new way and be given the opportunity to finish their secondary studies and start college or university studies at a younger age.For example , a child or kid could be homeschooled and finish high school at a younger or lower age , then he or she could follow the formal education system and go to college or the university at that lower age in order to complete his or her higher (post-secondary) education.
Thus one efficient educational method is to teach children and youngsters by using a combination of (accelerated) homeschooling and formal instruction.