I fear that you are trying to build the education system like a machine, which is what has made it go so horribly wrong in America. We would be better served by looking not from the ground up and starting with a blueprint of how the system will be structured, but by looking at the end goal of the system.
I am a certified teacher and have taught grades 6-12 and taught a year of English and Intercultural Communications at a university in Russia. In my experience, American course structures and most online learning course structures are good at teaching information but not understanding of implementation. Our students can recite but not perform.
Existing Effective Features of Education on Earth
Project-based learning (PBL) is much more effective but requires a lot of internal motivation from the students, which is a question of what cultural values are instilled in the children. (PBL requires students to learn as they address some central question or problem to solve, ending in a final product that can be used in the real world. This can be done with online education, as in the coding section of Khan Academy or a lot of the online formats universities are now taking. I am currently pursuing a degree in electrical and mechanical engineering and have had to make original codes and troubleshoot circuits using programs on virtual desktops. As applications like these continue to improve, online education will be more than suited for PBLs but are still lacking when it comes to developing a sense of community unless actual face time is integrated).
Cross-curricular education and foreign language education have also been found to enhance students' ability to make inferences and think critically, both a strong focus in Finland. Cross-curricular education, however, requires a lot of co-teaching or for teachers to be well-versed in a broad range of topics in order to integrate them into their lessons. In essence, a lesson could have students learning about the physics of flight, engineering principals and aesthetics, a related story by the Strugatskiy brothers, and World War II all at the same time. (While my students currently get very little time to actually use what they know and apply it to a real purpose because of our system, the Dungeons and Dragons club I have after school is booming with creativity, negotiation, and problem solving!) I believe this method is more important at the K-6 level, after which students can begin to specialize in a "magnet school" type setting, as in Europe.
The most crucial point for education will be to instill a sense of curiosity, cooperation, empowerment, and responsibility rather than a sense of competition and a need to strive for the perfect 100 percent. Students must know that their contributions are important. They are already apprentices contributing to the nation.
Support for Teachers
For teachers, education and support will be crucial. Building lesson plans for teachers is great, but compiling resources and allowing for flexibility is equally important. It's also important that we don't overload teachers. Project-based learning takes a lot of overhead work with planning and scheduling. We can build as many lessons as we want, but if teachers do not have time to review the materials and get to know them intimately, lessons are much less effective. Time is the teacher's mortal enemy. Last year, I worked 70 hours a week, nearly putting me at minimum wage.
There is a lot of talk here about creating resources. Librarians will be just as important as teachers because a large part of their degree involves compiling and organizing resources from all over into cohesive units. Once we have settled on a basic curriculum, we need people to compile the resources already available into cross-curricular PBL units to streamline the process for teachers to understand what will be required of them and their students to complete the unit with positive results.
My Proposed Order of Business
- Establish goals of curriculum
- Map out a learning path that addresses those goals
- Compile resources for each step of the learning path
- Develop units integrating those resources with room for authentic student contribution
For steps 1 and 2, we should definitely not start from scratch and instead look at the goals and learning paths of nations with education systems that produce creative critical thinkers. The Finnish National Board of Education would be a good place to start: http://www.oph.fi/english/curriculaandqualifications/basic_education (This link is not coming up correctly because of the underscores, but you can find the site by searching "The Finnish National Board of Education."
Does anyone happen to have access to their basic core curriculum? They do provide open access to the secondary education curriculum.
For step 3, many educators and organizations have already begun this process, although access to such libraries of resources usually requires a subscription. This will likely be the most feasible starting point. Upper grades will also need subscriptions to scientific research databases anyway.
Step 4 is just filling in the gaps for whatever else teachers and students need to fulfill their goals.