Documentaries

Thailand is perhaps one of today’s most culturally misrepresented countries by mainstream western media. Stories about Thailand range from depictions of stark poverty, human trafficking, child prostitution and Bangkok’s massive sex industry to tales of all-night full moon parties, pristine islands, and a utopian lifestyle for tourists and expats. Beneath these stereotypes, however, pulses the heartbeat of genuine and complex people, coping with the rapid development of their country.

A documentary feature film directed by Marvin Blunte, 6 Weeks to Mother’s Day paints an intimate portrait of true Thai culture by exploring one of its most progressive schools, Moo Baan Dek, known in english as the Children’s Village School.  Home to some of Thailand’s most underprivileged children, the Children’s Village has become a pillar in the Thai education system and a promising symbol of the country’s future.

Located in a remote jungle village in Kanchanaburi province, this fascinating democratic school provides a strikingly unique form of education to approximately 150 students who reside at and attend the school.  In addition to being provided free education, food and living accommodations, the students of Children’s Village learn to love themselves, their culture, and their land.   Children’s Village is a place where the students experience a world filled with acceptance, understanding, and freedom.  Although the children sleep twelve to a room, have no hot water, and limited electricity, life at Children’s Village is not that of poverty, but rather of empowerment. 

6 Weeks to Mother’s Day follows the students as they learn, work, create and play while preparing a special celebration to honor the school’s founder and person they refer to as “Mother”, Rajani Dhongchai, on what will be her 35th Mother’s Day at the school. Prepare to witness a rare slice of Thai culture as seen through the eyes of some of its most forward thinking children.

Being and Becoming explores the theme of trusting children and their development, and invites us to question our learning paradigms and options.

The filmmaker takes us on a journey of discovery through the US, France, the UK and Germany (where it's illegal not to go to school.) We meet parents who have made the choice of not schooling their children, neither at school nor at home, but of letting them learn freely what they are truly passionate about.

It is a quest for truth about the innate desire to learn. It belongs to a wider theme than education, connected to a change in our belief system and to our society's evolution, as well as to the importance of reclaiming one's life and self-confidence.

Parents, educators, students and college admissions professionals all intimately understand the financial, emotional and intellectual burden of the SAT/ACT—tests that are not only an integral part of the college admissions process for most American students, but also can be a rite of passage for teenagers in the United States. Even as adults, few of us forget our score, or how we felt about what it took to earn it.

 

The Test & the Art of Thinking traces the history and evolution of the SAT/ACT as a major player on the pathway to higher education in America, and it documents its current power in our culture. In so doing, it strives to support individuals who are embarking on the road to college, by examining what the SAT/ACT measures and means, and asking a range of educational leaders, admissions professionals and stakeholders in the test—from tutors to parents to test designers—to grapple with the test’s use, ramifications and future.

What is the future of education in a networked world? Indian professor Sugata Mitra calls for a revolution in how and what we learn. With a global network of information a few clicks away, Mitra argues that the Victorian model on which our school systems are based is obsolete. School In The Cloud follows a three-year experiment as Mitra installs unmanned internet kiosks in locations ranging from remote villages in West Bengal to a school in northeast England, to enable children to self-organize their learning. Jerry Rothwell’s film explores the impact of Sugata’s work, predominantly through the experience of children in the remote Indian village of Korakati in the Ganges Delta. As children encounter the internet for the first time, will they be able to use it to transform their futures?

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What happens to those kids who didn’t go to school or who experienced non-traditional educations once they become adults? Are they “successful” in life? Can they get into college if they choose to follow that route? How do they make a living, get jobs or start their own businesses? And how do they define success for themselves?

 

Self-Taught shares the extraordinary personal stories of a number of adult self-directed learners and explores their feelings about being educated outside of the traditional system. 

For many, conventional educational institutions can alienate people from their capacities to make connections, to sustain relationships, to grow and develop and to learn. These people, who feel excluded, unaccepted, marginalized, bored, exhausted or harmed by conventional education may want to seek or create alternatives. Alternative education then is not a single panacea, another step by step instructions or a strict ideology, but rather an umbrella term that attempts to capture diverging and/or emerging traditions, ideas, concepts and practices that seek to guide, participate in and support learning in diverse settings and conditions. 

 

This documentary illustrates just a few examples of alternative education and how they reimagine and remake school, what it means to be a student and teacher, and what learning can be.  We highlight free democratic schools, self directed learning spaces, homeschool resource centers, place based learning models, traditional practices, restorative justice, and educational philosophies that include Montessori and Waldorf.  The boundaries of what is and isn't alternative education are not rigid. Furthermore, many of the schools we visited could fit in or be examples of multiple categories; which illustrates the interconnectedness and evolving nature of contemporary alternative education. To put simply, this documentary is an introduction, one we hope will invite people to further explore the histories and possibilities of alternative education.

Kelly Seacrest is an artist and educator who, while teaching middle school, began to question why so many students and teachers struggle within the conventional education model. After stumbling on an article about free democratic schooling, Kelley quickly read all that she could about alternative education. Soon after, she was able to take a year off teaching to travel to schools around the country. Her husband, Peter, accompanied her to film the people she met and conversations had. She hopes this documentary will help inspire a program in her home in Lincoln, Nebraska; and serve as inspiration for others on their own journey into the possibilities of education.

© AERO 2017

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