“Schooled” – The Review

A few weeks ago I posted about Schooled, a new movie that depicts the life of a Sudbury or democratic school. The team behind the movie got in touch with me (to tell me about Schooled and they were kind enough to mail me a copy of the DVD.

The movie was OK; however, I was somewhat disappointed to see that the school in the movie didn’t really get a lot of attention. In a way it almost feels like the movie was poking fun at the democratic school concept – if you weren’t already aware of such schools, you’d get the impression that all they do all day is play games. The most damning scene for me was when Fred (the lead character, a burnt-out teacher) tried to share some facts about cannons but the students didn’t pay any interest. Aren’t such schools about seeing the learning potential in anything, to gain an interest in knowledge? That was the complete opposite!

Hector, the teacher at the school (and supposedly Fred’s rival in some sort of love triangle) came off as an unfeeling inflexible megalomaniac. Some of the students at the school create an advocacy group claiming that Hector was pushing his ideals; however, in the film, the student group get shut down with nary a listen and Hector rules again (we don’t get to see why the students, one of whom Hector has adopted, have a problem with Hector in the first place). When Fred asks him about learning and getting into college, Hector claims that they do it “from the heart” – yet his treatment of Shelliot (his wife and Fred’s close friend), Fred, and the students come off as heartless, preferring to stick to his ideals rather than considering other viewpoints (as evidenced in his unwillingness to even consider Shelliot’s wish for a baby due to overpopulation).

There are quite a number of subplots – Fred’s marriage to Luna, his family troubles, the sexual tension between Fred and Shelliot, the two kids at Fred’s school – that get touched on but don’t really reveal themselves very well. Sometimes scenes will come up but then disappear again, making you think “what was the significance of that?”. For example, Soomi (another schoolkid that Shelliot and Hector adopted) dumps wine into the salmon, then says she is “sad and scared” – but we never find out why.

With some trimming of subplots, and better exploration into the characters’ motivations, the movie could have done much better. Since the school was meant to be the focus of this movie, it would have been great to devote more time to it, especially in all the different ways their students learn, grow, and motivate themselves. The brief views do not do it justice.

The film itself isn’t terrible, though it could have been better. It’s OK viewing but don’t expect it to give you epiphanies about education. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it as a primer to democratic schools – unless you want to leave with the conclusion that all students do all day is play video games!

Good effort guys; just needs some depth.

Question about starting schools in Malaysia

What rules and laws govern the formation of schools in Malaysia? Do those same laws affect private schools?

For instance, if you set up a private school, are you required by law to administer the KBSM/KBSR curriculum? Do your students have to take UPSR/PMR/SPM/STPM?

What if you wanted to set up an alternative school – for example, one following the Sudbury Valley model? With the Sudbury Valley model, national curricula and standardized exams would go against everything the model stands for – democratic, student-centered education.

Would you need to get approval from the Government before setting up such a school? How and where would you get funding?