Structural Paradigm of Schools: Foundations and Assumptions

Current Education Paradigm [1]

Schools anywhere in the world share a common paradigm that was determined by the demands of the Industrial Revolution. In this post we identify the structural elements underlying the current paradigm. Many of the underlying assumptions of these structural elements are being questioned in the light of the transition to knowledge age of the 21st century from the industrial age of the 19-20th century. The structural elements given below are also shared by the universities, with some variations:

Building/Campus Structure

  1. School must have a campus and a building.
  2. Bigger and more ostentatious a school campus, better the school.
  3. Class rooms must have seating with students facing a black/white board and a teacher.

Time Structure

  1. On a given day, school starts at a particular time and ends at a particular time.
  2. School is open on particular days of a year
  3. The unit of measuring progress in school is a calendar year. 

Student Life Structure

  1. Schooling starts at a particular age and should end by a particular age.
  2. Period of schooling is around 12 years.
  3. At the end of 10 or 12 years of schooling, the student must appear in a standardized test conducted by an external agency. 


  1. If we do not teach, a student will not learn.
  2. Student is like a clean slate. If we do not write on it, someone else will. 
  3. Students must be herded to pre-approved schools by the authorities (government, parents, family).

Knowledge Structure

  1. There must be a national curriculum. Everyone must be indoctrinated with the same set of knowledge concepts and skills in the schools. 
  2. It is crime for the student not to cover the prescribed curriculum. Punishment: Failure
  3. It is crime for the teacher not to cover the entire subject curriculum. Punishment: Reprimand, Fired.
  4. Delivery of knowledge requires a class-room environment. 
  5. Knowledge must be divided into subjects with strict boundaries.
  6. Subjects must have prescribed text-books.
  7. Textbook series must progress with each year from simple to complex

Class Period Structure

  1. Instruction of knowledge can only be imparted in fixed duration periods.
  2. Knowledge for each subject must be divided into lesson plans, one for each period.
  3. There should be fixed number of periods per subject per week.
  4. Subject periods must alternate with fixed frequency and a repetitive weekly pattern as defined by the school authorities. This is called the time-table.
  5. Content of the class instruction should not cross the boundary of the lesson plan, and must adhere to the sequence of the lesson plan approved by the school authority.
  6. To ensure that the lesson plan is peacefully covered by the teacher in the class period, students are not allowed to disturb by talking, discussing, moving, or going out of the class without permission.

Teaching Structure

  1. A subject teacher is an expert of that subject and can not be questioned, especially, by the students.
  2. It is not necessary for a subject teacher to have knowledge of other connecting subjects. 
  3. Students in a given subject period should not cross the boundary of that subject in asking questions that are out of the book, out of the course or not known to the school authorities.
  4. A subject teacher should not cross the boundary of that subject.
  5. Subject teacher should not encourage the students to follow a line of enquiry leading in unexpected directions. 
  6. Teachers should change after every year/subject period. Class-1 teachers are different from class-VIII teachers. 
  7. Multiple teachers of the same class of students can not be working on the same topic.

Age Based Class Structure

  1. All students of the same age should be in the same class.
  2. Students of one age should not be mixed with students of older age or with students of younger age. 
  3. It is humiliating (failure, learning deficiency) for an elder student to be sitting with younger students. 
  4. There is particular knowledge to be imparted for students of a particular age. 
  5. Students of a class (say class IV) are incapable of understanding the prescribed text for another class (say class VIII), and must be limited to their assigned class. 

Disciplinary Structure

  1. Students are not allowed to question the rules set by school authorities.
  2. Students are not allowed to ask questions from teachers that can expose their lack of knowledge, or expose the uncertainty of knowledge concepts. This is called mis-behavior (bud-tameezi) and must be punished. 
  3. Students are not allowed to question the appropriateness of a particular lesson plan on a given day and follow a line of enquiry more relevant to the current weather, situation and environment or city, national or international emergency, etc, or one triggered by last lecture and moving into another territory. 
  4. Students are not allowed to talk in the class or disturb the school environment. 

Examination Structure

  1. Question paper made by the teacher can not be questioned. 
  2. Question paper is valid and reliable, and actually measures the student’s proficiency. 
  3. Failure in the exam is blamed on the student (or the student’s family). 
  4. The credit for student’s success in board exams goes to the school and teachers. 
  5. Question paper must be kept secret till the time of the exam.
  6. Cheating and copying from written sources is a crime. 
  7. Taking help from others in solving a problem is cheating and therefore a crime. 
  8. The identity of the student should be kept hidden from the examiner.
  9. Examiner should be external and should not know the student. 
  10. Examiner should only take in to account what a student has done on the answer sheet. 

Grading Structure

  1. Without grading and pass percentages, students can not be motivated. 
  2. Students will not study if there is no grading. 
  3. Students require carrot and stick to make them study. 

Uniformity Structure

  1. All students must dress the same way: Prescribed school uniform.
  2. All students must look the same way: Length of hair, shoe color and shape.
  3. All students must belong to the same demographic background: Entrance interview
  4. All students must be at the same level of competency to get admission: Entrance test
  5. All students at the same class level must be taught the same way: Standardization
  6. All students must be examined the same way. 


[1] Changing Education Paradigms by Sir Ken Robinson


  1. Anonymous Avatar

    Competition within the school is also considered to be a basis for motivation and improved performance…

    Mistakes are sinful and worthy of punishment…

    The purpose of final exam is to categorize a student, not help him become better, as if its not possible…

    Teachers are suppose to do the job of tape recorder, in every semester etc…

    Its a replica of a factory where the workers are not suppose to question the authority of the supervisor etc… the students are being prepared for this kind of an environment…

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