Where the education system restricts the growth mindset.
Most education stakeholders want to create learning environments where pupils can develop a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset. This is easier said than done. Our school system has developed into a framework that keeps kids and educators from developing a growth mindset. A growth mindset helps children and adults to confront self-imposed limitations, ideas like “I can’t do math” or “I’m just not good at that” and increases their ability to tackle fields of learning where they are lacking. This is why the time spent in the education system plays such a crucial role: If we want our children to make most of their talents and equip them with the right attitudes for life, it is important to imbue them with a growth mindset at school.
But how? How can you turn this powerful theory into practice, in spite of the many restrictions imposed upon them by the system? How do you raise students’ awareness of the importance of having the right mindset and help them to form this mindset? How can you create a framework where pupils can develop a growth mindset with as few adjustments as possible?
In this article I will try to point the reader to a few good practices. In the first part, I’ll try to explain how the educational system can restrict the growth mindset, drawing on an example from the Dutch educational system. In the second part I will try to give some practical tips on how to translate the growth mindset theory by Carol Dweck into practice and illustrate that, in this way, it is possible to create an environment where pupils can develop a better attitude towards themselves and the learning process.
The complexity of the Belgium education system
Before talking about the challenges facing the development of a growth mindset in the Belgian education system, let me outline the structure and some of the quirks of our system. When we talk about the Belgian education system, we’re actually talking about three entirely different education systems. Belgium is divided into three communities: the French speaking community, the Flemish speaking community and the German speaking community. The communities are responsible for cultural, linguistic and educational affairs. In this article I want to focus on the education system in the full-time Flemish secondary school
A 12-year-old pupil in a Flemish school starts in 1A or 1B. 1A stands for a general study with the option of learning Latin. 1B (pre-vocational track) is meant for pupils who haven’t acquired the competences taught in primary school. After a few years the pupil has to choose a field of study (ASO, BSO, TSO or KSO) which all offer distinct qualifications. ASO, the “general secondary education”, prepares pupils for higher education programs (university or college). TSO, technical secondary education prepares pupils for practical positions in professional life or a follow-up study in higher education. Here the pupil will find a mix between general subjects, technical subjects and practical subjects. KSO, art secondary education, is an artistic education where the pupils are prepared for a position in professional life or follow-up studies in higher education. BSO, vocational secondary education gives pupils the opportunity to practise a profession immediately after obtaining their degree. If they want to, they can continue their studies. Each field of study offers a different specialization with its subjects (ex. ASO Latin, ASO Sciences-sports, TSO sciences, BSO marketing, …).