Guus’ Books

Autopoiesis Perspective on sustainable, meaningful education.

“Mum, compulsory education……does that means it’s compulsory for them to teach me something?” Yoël, aged 6

Education. Education is the basis of our society. As the mainstay and developer of culture, and as the mainstay of our economic development. There is always plenty to do, both in the schools themselves, in politics and in the media. Ques- tions enough: the quality is not good enough, the learning outcomes are too low; there is a lack of social relevance; the air quality in the classrooms is poor, etc. etc. Education generally attracts negative interest. And neither are any structural solutions put forward. Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO. nl) (DuurzaamDoor Programma) asked Guus Geisen to conduct a study into education as it is today and looking forward to the desired shape of education in the future. Desired in terms of the interests of the child and in terms of the interests of society, both now and in the future.

Key question: Which system of education will fit well with how children learn and at the same time lead to working on solutions for tomorrow? When answering this question, the focus is on primary and secondary education.

Guus Geisen’s vision looks successively at how the brain works, the importance of developing connections, the role of the framework of reference and the characteristics of educa- tion today. Finally, there are conclusions and recommenda- tions regarding the central issue.


Education today sets the bar too low. Maths and language, and the methodical approach to these have become an aim in themselves, whereas they are in fact a tool. Let’s raise the bar. By giving children the opportunity to work on meaning- ful subjects using different intelligences and different minds. The child has better retention of what has been learned and is proud of what has been achieved. It sets the basis for more sustainable behaviour in the future. One concrete way of giving shape to this is to allow children to work on their own masterpiece. At the end of primary school each child (independently or in a small group) works on an assignment for an organisation outside of education. During this assignment, all the current subjects provided by the curricula are combined. Writing, reading, maths, geography and history, as well as citizenship. These are no longer an aim in themselves but a tool to provide an effective solution to an organisation’s meaningful problem. At the end of their further education, the students also create a masterpiece with personal and social relevance. This is another realistic step to adulthood.

Education in this specific context and all organizations in general need to change in this 21st century. We have created systems in the past and we assume they are bulletproof for the future. The first thing to change is the notion from knowledge to learning. Both important but the emphasis needs to be on learning with knowledge as a by-product. From there every part of the system needs to be re-created. Small steps with a big impact. And the first thing we need is some courage from teachers and leaders to do this.