Sep 13, 2016

The Rise of Micro Schools as a Broader Reflection of Culture

I have been thinking a lot about the constant conundrum of independent education and financial and market sustainability.  The model just does not work and I believe has run it’s long course.  Normally, this thinking leads me to thinking about market retraction, which leads to school consolidation and collaboration, and often extinction.

Today, however,  I got thinking about the emerging idea of micro schools.  The idea of taking a small number of students, such as 100, and using five well paid faculty that serve as “lead facilitators and generalists of knowledge” in an urban, one room maker space/school house sounds pretty cool.  Tuition could run between $4000 and $8000, classes would be small, and quality and value would be pretty significant if done properly.  It is an interesting concept that is taking shape with a few emerging brands around the nation.

Lately, however, I have begun thinking of this market entry as more of a generational trend.  Everywhere we look we see the generational effect of downsizing, going local in consumer purchases, and stripping out the unnecessary in consumer transactions.  Whether it be tiny houses, food trucks, or little cars and communal vehicles, the micro school movement is more than just about finance.  It is about resetting priorities around learning, quality experiences, value for the price, and community.  It is about stripping education down to the core and removing the unnecessary barriers to quality learning that drives the cost so high.

It will be interesting to see if, and under what conditions, this trend continues.  I am a believe of the concept in theory, yet recognize that it does not and will not replace the social role of independent schools.  But, it could create legitimate line extensions and market opportunities.  And, in theory, it should expand the universe of those receiving high quality education, which, in turn, can have a transformative impact on our world.  And, that is what is the most exciting.

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  1. Rick Johnson on September 13, 2016 at 7:20 pm

    Ian – If you would like to explore this idea further, feel free to contact me and I could tell you about my experience at my school – The Beech Hill School is an independent middle school – grades 6, 7, and 8 – with an enrollment of roughly 40. Small is feasible, exciting, and serves well the needs of a wide variety of learners. I do not consider my school a trend, and love sharing the school’s story if you have interest. Best, Rick Johnson

    • Ian Symmonds on September 14, 2016 at 12:07 pm

      Thanks for the good thinking, Rick. We’re just examining the shifting landscape of education, which is something we do on an ongoing basis. I visited your website – looks like your school is also a Squarespace user!

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