CHARACTERISTICS OF THE SCHOOL
Equal Status of All Members
The members in the school community include students and staff. The adults in the school are “staff members”, instead of “teachers”. Every student and staff member has an equal status, which means every one has the same rights, such as, the right to vote on school matters, and the right to pursue their own interests. Also, every person should be a responsible person, which means everyone has to bear the consequences of his or her actions.
Students are free to choose what they want to do everyday. They are free to pursue their own interests as long as they do not infringe on other people’s rights or violate other people’s boundaries. There is no fixed curriculum. There will be some courses offered once in a while, but they are not compulsory. If students want to learn a specific subject or skill, they will be the ones who initiate, ask staff members for help, decide on the learning schedule, etc. Staff members are there to help whenever they are asked.
The School Meeting is held once a week, where staff members and students can participate on a voluntary basis. All aspects of the internal running of the school are decided by the School Meeting, in which each student and staff member has one vote. This is an implication of students being treated as equals. As most things are decided by majority vote and as the students outnumber the staff members the students have a major influence on how the school is run. The School Meeting discusses and votes on matters such as hiring and re-election of staff members, the level of tuition fees to be charged, how to spend the income in a responsible manner to ensure a balanced budget.
The experience at Sudbury schools show that older students tend to be more active in the School Meeting and the younger students usually attend only if there is something on the agenda which directly affects them.
The Judicial Committee (JC) is held every school day. The purpose of the JC is to resolve any conflicts in the community. It investigates written complaints about possible violations against school rules and makes sure that a due process is applied. As a result, students enjoy freedom, but they don’t have license to do whatever they want to do. The JC consists of elected Judicial Clerks, students on JC duty and one staff member.
The Law Book
Each member of the community can propose new rules or suggest amending/ abolishing existing rules to the School Meeting. These are then discussed in the School Meeting and the ones that are passed are collected in the school’s Law Book. Anyone who feels that a rule has been broken can write a complaint to the Judicial Committee.
Students’ age range is from 6 to 18 years old. Children of different ages mix together in the campus. There are no classrooms separating the kids according to their age. Children play with and learn from each other.
There are no tests, exams, grades, or any other external measurement imposed to evaluate students’ learning. Each person is the best judge of his/her own efforts. Students can ask other people to provide criticism, comments or advice for them to improve their own work if they want. And if they want to evaluate themselves by some tests, they are free to ask for help too.
No Value Judgement on any Interests or Subjects
We view each interest and subject as equal. For example, if a child is interested in painting, we will not direct him or her to learn some academic subjects. The study of law does not have a higher value than the study of hair styling skills.
The Role of Staff
The staff members are supposed to be good role models for the students, and they are responsible for the day-to-day functioning of the school. This includes, but is not limited to admissions, enrolment, fiscal management, institutional management, public relations, upkeep of the building, etc. When a student wants to learn about a particular subject and requests help from a staff member, the latter has to be ready to satisfy the student’s needs. In addition, staff members can initiate their own activities, e.g. “I am going to bake moon cakes on Wednesday at 10am. Anyone interested, please sign up here.” But this is done in the spirit of sharing an activity, which the staff member enjoys doing rather than trying to implicitly teach mathematics and chemistry through this activity.
The School Setting
The campus is likely to be in the New Territories where there is an outdoor area in addition to the indoor space. The school will be furnished in a “home” style, instead of an institutional style. There will be different rooms with facilities available according to the students’ interest. Suggested rooms include: A living room, a dining room, a kitchen, a reading room with many books in it, an art room, a music room, a spare room which can be used flexibly.