Geoff Mulgan: A short intro to the Studio School

by NDFAuthors

  • Jan 13, 2016

Geoff Mulgan, Chief Executive of Nesta, has introduced a new system of schooling, known as the Studio School, which encourages all students to fuel a passion for education.

The modern world of education is incredibly competitive and progressive, but this is coupled with an impediment in the education of students who cannot attain this level of competitiveness – the students who lack motivation and inspiration to continue school.

So what can be done to motivate these students? What measures can we take up in our schools to encourage all students to fuel a passion for education, rather than to simply put up with school?  

Geoff Mulgan, Chief Executive of Nesta, has an answer to this. In order to combine work and learning, he introduced a new system of schooling, known as the Studio School.


What is “Studio School”?

Copyright: SpeedKingz

Copyright: SpeedKingz

A studio school has its name derived from the Renaissance definition of studio, a site where “work and learning are integrated”. The description of studio schools on their website, entails the ultimate goal of this system:

to address the growing gap between the skills and knowledge that young people require to succeed, and those that the current education system provides.

This “gap” the website mentions, refers to the seemingly inexistent correlation between academic content taught in schools and knowledge and skills necessary for success in the workforce. Mulgan discusses this in his TED Talk, and through this he details the motivations of having started the first Studio School.

As the stresses and efforts required by academic coursework increase, many students are left questioning whether the education they are pouring their energy into will really benefit them in the long run. Upon realizing that many of these students lose motivation for pursuing a high school degree once they learn of its little ‘direct’ benefits, this ‘gap’ becomes more coherent, and much more important.

We are living in an era in which we cannot afford to lose educated civilians. The conflicts and problems the future generation face cannot be resolved unless they are best prepared and educated today.

When some students find little motivation to go to school, what can we do to encourage them? Studio schools set out to address this issue:

  • Studio schools are generally relatively small, with around 300 students, and mainly administer to teenagers aged 14-19.
  • The characteristics of studio schools that set them apart from other education systems is that the “majority of curriculum [is taught] through practical projects”, and more of a business atmosphere is enforced in the school. For instance, timetables are treated as though they were business timetables.
  • Furthermore, students each have ‘coaches’ that support and further educate them alongside the teachers they would already have for their schooling.
Copyright: Monkey Business Images

Copyright: Monkey Business Images

Does it really work?

The idea of Studio Schools inspired the notion of basing education off of ideals most applicable to students and their potential career paths. By designing an education that directly revolves around skills and knowledge students would need in their future, they found that students were more eager to learn, and less “bored” by the material covered in school.

The results of the trial run of the studio school, albeit not perfect, showed a significant trend with regards to an improvement in grades of students who were previously suffering in school. This pertains to the school’s ideology that those struggling to find motivation to excel in school can discover a passion for education through hands-on work with material that matters to them.

This newfound sense of independence, and leniency with regards to academic direction and curriculum, motivated students to fuel more passion into their work, as they realized that it was not the school’s education system they’d be failing, but their own. The increased sense of responsibility probably added to their success as well, as entire projects were at stake if students didn’t put in their work effort, rather than just the student’s mark.

Every child learns differently – some need visual aids, others learn purely by listening. Many students learn by doing hands-on work, work that directly relates to the line of work they may want to pursue in the future. For students who fail to see the significance of obtaining a broad, yet detailed, education in various subjects in high school, the better option may be to introduce them solely to the education they care about.

Copyright: Goodluz

Copyright: Goodluz

This kind of schooling may not provide students with the most well-rounded or diverse education, but considering the alternative, which is no education at all, this system is much more beneficial – particularly for students who are already pretty set on the career they want to pursue. For these kids,  it is much more efficient and effective to provide them with an education that exposes them to real-life projects in their field.


What do you think about this system of education? Do you like it? Do you think it is a good or poor approach of tackling increasing high school drop out rates? And more importantly, would you recommend this kind of school  to  your child?