Illich, I. (1970). Deschooling Society. Cuernavaca, Mexico: CIDOC. Downloadable from: http://www.preservenet.com/theory/Illich/Deschooling/intro.html
pp. 26-27 “… I shall define ‘school’ as the age-specific, teacher-related process requiring full-time attendance at an obligatory curriculum.”
The characteristics that Illich refers to as being defining characteristics of schools are:
1. age-specific (and age-segregated) learning contexts;
2. teacher-related (teacher-centred) processes;
3. full-time attendance (compulsory attendance); and
4. obligatory curriculum (centrally determined, and obligatory for all to complete).
Each of these characteristics militates against efficient and effective learning on the part of the students.
Firstly, age-specific and age-segregated learning ensures that learning will be pitched at the mediocre, with very little attention to the needs of those students at either extreme of learning capacity. Age-specific and age-segregated cohorts are created on the assumption that all children pass through the same stages of development at the same times, which is not true in all areas for all children. There are developmental differences that enable many children to be at different stages at different times in different areas of their lives. This assumption of equal development suppresses individuality, and creativity, and ultimately prevents most children from becoming excellent at anything.
Secondly, teacher-related/teacher-centred processes focus on the interests, strengths and abilities of the teacher. Effective learning takes place when the student has a particular interest or passion that is being catered for. Learning should not be totally child-centred and child-focused, however, the individuality of the student needs to be taken into consideration, including favoured learning styles, previous learning, orientation, interests and passion of the child. All these need to be taken into consideration when facilitating learning opportunities.
Thirdly, full-time, compulsory attendance does not take into consideration the powerful learning that takes place when spontaneous opportunities in the context of living life present themselves. It is important to have the time and the flexibility to respond to these learning opportunities.
Finally, a centrally determined, obligatory curriculum does not take into consideration the myriad of variations of learning needs that are spread across families, communities, regions and so forth. No one person can learn everything there is to learn. And no one person or group of people can choose from the full range of possible things that can be learned, which are to be the universally required core learnings. These are local decisions.