In the SelfDesign Learner’s Declaration of Rights and Responsibilities, the twelfth right is: “As a learner I have the right of equal access to resources, information and funding.”

Historically, there has been a widespread inequality of wealth and knowledge in the world. In these days of easy access to vast amounts of information, there no longer needs to be inequality in opportunities to learn.

Knowledge was once restricted to monks and acolytes; later it was shared by princes and tutors; and today, while schooling is almost universal, the narrow nature of the funnel channeling information to learners limits what and how they learn. With the relatively recent rise of the internet and instant search capabilities, access to information is now ubiquitous. After 244 years, Encyclopedia Brittanica recently announced it would cease publishing its books.

Learning paradigms are changing. Devon Girard, one of the students from Virtual High, said it eloquently, “Teachers need to shift into the role of a knowledge navigator — guiding and supporting their pupils in their own curiosities.”

At SelfDesign, with personalized learning plans, mentors, and learning consultants to guide the way, learners have the opportunity to self-direct their learning in an environment of freedom and respect. Conventional high school teachers often complain about how disengaged students are and the lack of resources available to keep their interest. However, older teens in SelfDesign, working with mentors on areas of their own choosing, often study for longer hours and with greater intensity and yet reflect on this time as engaging, interesting, and enjoyable.

They may be organizing a TEDx event, re-engineering a “Veggie bus,” participating in a small group learning experience in history, or diving into a co-created independent study on math, legos, literature, or robotics. The learners find the topics meaningful and relevant and they can stay engaged in the process of learning because their curiosities, talents, and skills are nurtured and not set aside to be pursued after a one size fits all curriculum is covered.

What can you do in your family and community to promote access to resources and knowledge?