Educational Engineering at its best

" It appears to me that educational engineering is still the missing element in the realization of many key innovations in education."

William H. Zaggle - Chief Academic Officer at GlobalScholar


The core team of education engineers at Steiner College first expanded on an incubator-idea of its founder Prabhash Lakmal to address an age group that has been woefully neglected in the past, namely, young children. It is well known that cognitive capabilities of human beings are highest when they are youngest and contrary to most expectations, these abilities gradually taper off after the age of 5 and flatten out completely by the age of 11. Therefore, the team realized that the most innovative educational instruments had to be created for this age group and proceeded to do exactly that, putting together a path-breaking intermesh of components that optimized cognition in young children and ICE (the Institute of Cognitive Enhancement) was born. Despite the fact that the methodology, at least on paper, was incredibly complex, the team executed its strategy to perfection. Such was the success of the program that the capabilities and primary school performance of children who were exposed to the program left everyone else literally in the dust. Just six months after launching ICE, it reached its first milestone: placing the first student on a waiting list. That list has now grown to become equal to the number of actual students in the institute.


During this period, the education engineers at Steiner were not content to rest on their success but rather, went back to the drawing boards to innovate and test instruments for the age group 6-9, the IGCSE student body and the advanced AS/A3 level. Many models were created, tested, discarded and gradually, the team was led to the root idea that the approach of educating students for perceived need in their mainstream education was not sufficient. Instead, the Steiner team realized that whatever engineering marvel they came up with would not be merely an end in itself, but rather, a means to an end. They realized that their system would have to provide crucial, hitherto unheard of services that would optimize performance of its students in mainstream education first and move them beyond the learning sphere into the world at large as highly enabled, skilled, insightful and compassionate members of human civilization.


The original Steiner Team that chiseled out the concept. The team is a healthy mix of young, enthusiastic and dynamic idealists and older, sober, more circumspect thinkers and strategists. 

LEFT TO RIGHT: Sociologist - Dr. D. Gamage, Teacher Trainer - Ms. Thanuja, Facilitator - Ms. Bimba, Anthropologist/Education Engineer - Mr. Arjuna Seneviratne, Psychologist - Ms. Sanuththara Upulananda, Mathematician/Education Engineer - Mr. Prabhash Lakmal, Educationist - Prof. Morley De Silva.


This was when the importance of a comprehensive education ecosystem was first identified. Led by Prabhash and Arjuna, the group called itself the Steiner team in memory of Rudolf Steiner, the Austrian philosopher, author, social reformer, architect, esotericist and educationist. It was Steiner who first proposed to the western world the idea of holistic learning and the coupling of science and spirituality as essential parts of human development. The team took its cue from Steiner's division of child development into three major stages as reflected in his approach to early childhood education, which focuses on practical, hands-on activities and creative play; to elementary education, which focuses on developing artistic expression and social capacities; and to secondary education, which focuses on developing critical reasoning and empathic understanding. The overarching goal was to develop free, morally responsible, and integrated individuals equipped with a high degree of social competence. The Steiner team modified, expanded and enhanced those ideas based on their own experience and additionally, used a fact that they had proved through ICE: Little children are far smarter and far more capable of understanding and using complex analytical, creative and linguistic ideas than most adults give them credit for.


The Steiner team, having decided on an ecosystems approach, went on to unpacked that ecosystem, approaching their engineering exercise by first identifying the enabling environment of the learning ecology.  These were the "stability essentials" or the qualitative components of a complex life-system that are base (root) requirements for  any and all educational situations (learning habitats) and are independent of the skill being learned, the age of the learner, the type of instruction given, the overall goal. The key components of this enabling environment as identified by the team were reflecting, learning and sharing all of which radiated out of a deep sense of mutual trust between facilitators, parents and the students themselves.  Here, the team was very clear that most education systems fail in their ultimate goal of creating a well-balanced and capable student because mutual trust was, in most cases, lacking.


While the actual establishment of the components of the enabling environment are quite complex, the ecosystem itself is comparatively simple and comprises of four specific habitats, namely, the foundation habitat, the enhancement habitat, the consolidation habitat and the mastery habitat. In return, each of these habitats provided the enabling environment with give backs or enrichments that constantly improved its own health and capabilities.



As you are probably aware, the cognitive capabilities of a child grow stratospherically during the first 12 months of its existence and then continue to increase until the age of 3. It then lessens slightly until the age of five. During the next six years (the so-called middle-school years), this capability gradually reduces until it flattens out at age 11. Now, mainstream education generally does not recognize this crucial factor and instead, simply attempts to convert a child into a calculator and snuffing out every spark of creative energy or rational thinking ability. The horror of this method (which includes such ill-designed rote learn programs as Kumon) is that it turns the child into an automaton whose abilities are rendered useless at age 11 when a calculator is provided anyway!  


Steiner Learning begs to differ not only for the benefit of the learning children but also their parents and society at large.


The Foundation Habitat (Institute of Cognitive Enhancement – ICE)

The foundation habitat that ICE has successfully created provides the enabling conditions required to develop a child’s mathematical skills, memory, attention, speed, problem solving ability, flexibility, creative ability, innovative ability, language skills and social skills while enhancing and consolidating the base emotional strength critical for empowered growth. The program creates a nurturing environment sans rotes, painful exercises or unreasonable censure that result in tired, frustrated, resentful children. Instead, it enhances discipline and cleverness through creative academic techniques that trigger a child’s innate abilities and ensures they learn at their own pace. The sessions are designed to allow children to grow their capacities in harmony with themselves making long hours in academic sweatshops unnecessary for high performance levels in mainstream academic exercises.


The Enhancement Habitat (Program of Level Enhancement – PLE)

Once children are capable of understanding that the world can be seen through a kaleidoscope of options, it is important, while cognitive capabilities are still strong, that they realize which skills they have an innate ability in, which skills they most like to practice, which skills are important for mainstream academic challenges, which skills are essential for them to acquire if they wish to be competent, integral, capable human beings. These issues are addressed early and during the years 6-9, PLE provides each child with a tailored enhancement program based on professional psychosocial profiling. The PLE habitat has one overarching goal in mind – to improve the confidence of children and create a sense of worth in each child that is not dependent on either comparison or competition with peers.  


The Consolidation Habitat (Program of Result Enhancement – PRE)

Children face their first “academic test” as it were at the ordinary level or IGCSE level in year 10. The problem, according to Steiner engineers was that children facing these examination conditions simply see it has a hurdle that needs to be jumped and not as a first level consolidation and recognition of their capabilities, propensities and personalities in facing skill challenges they will have to deal with as they move into more advanced study programs. The PRE provides a child with an understand of all of these and instead of driving children to “obtain marks” they are provided with many choices they can look into in terms of their academic future and maximizing their overall performance in these tests. The overarching goal of the PRE habitat is  - to ensure that children recognize that education for education is essentially a useless exercise and give them the realization that education for vocation is always the better future-proof option for their specific personalities and skill sets.


The Mastery Habitat (Program for Optimizing Education – POE)

As children grow older, as their hormones start kicking in, there is a natural desire on their part to engage each other competitively. This in itself is not essentially a bad thing. However, as the Steiner Team have observed in their decades of experience teaching the young, the present mainstream education system creates a sinister version of this competition with students encouraged by parents and, unfortunately, so-called teachers as well to be manipulative, cut-throat and vicious in trundling over everyone else with the objective of winning, not at all costs but more dangerously, by ensuring that everyone else loses. The Steiner Learner is not of that dark bent. Instead, Steiner children, by the time they have reached these ages have already become active social workers (not because doing such work will look good on their resume but rather, because they genuinely know the importance of public service), they are excellent sports people (not only because of exceling in sport performance but rather because they know sport is essential for health, development, conflict neutralization and harmonious co-existence) , they have proven themselves in academic exercises (not because those high marks were an end in itself but rather because they are collateral results of a desire for holistic accomplishment over skill-delimited achievement). Therefore, the POE program has been designed to provide life motivation, help them make high quality decisions on future life-endeavors and ground the children in critical tools essential for existence in a volatile world. These children also support the overall Steiner Education Ecosystem by contributing their own knowledge and experience to younger children in a loop-back that is the hallmark of all sustainable ecologies. The overarching goal of the PEO program is to create a high quality human being with the potential to be an excellent contributor to the community, country and planet as they move to take their place in the rough and tumble of the wide world.


Facilitators, parents and learners engage together in a tripartite interrelationship tailored to optimize the learning environment for students and enable them to SEE


Good ecosystems do not exist merely to serve themselves. Rather, they provide life critical services to human effort. The Steiner Education Ecosystem is no different. It is not a self-serving gadget that simply exists to feed itself. Instead, it provides the learner with optimal resources to excel and perform in the mainstream world at a level that mainstream education is not capable. These system services are the organic result of creating superior learning habitats and provide the primary school, secondary school, IGCSE and Advanced Level students with that cutting edge advantage that sees them do one of two things depending on capabilities: either perform better than they had ever performed before or out-perform everyone else.  The system services provided by Steiner Learning is then that critical bridge between the education ecology and the things that ecology can be used for in order to further the sum total of human effort. In this, the Steiner Learners, steeped in quality learning habitats for years, understanding themselves, capable of determining their own life choices, enabled to identify what constitutes excellence and what degenerates into mediocrity, rises head and shoulders above everyone else – without really have to try.

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