Reviews & Endorsements: Self Managed Learning and the New Educational Paradigm by Ian Cunningham
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Reviews & Endorsements: Self Managed Learning and the New Educational Paradigm by Ian Cunningham

This is a book everyone involved in education should read whether they be in early years,  secondary schooling or post-school education and particularly these days in university education. Too often education is not about learning but about instruction or even propaganda and not about empowering individuals to make their whole life a learning experience rich in its variety and usefulness. Too often learning is impeded because it is too controlling and conformist. And in some areas of life such as health education, it is little more than bad advertising. Learning should lead to internalisation - that is understanding and capability.

It is also a very personal book because it gives an autobiographical background to how the author himself has learned to learn. Learning is a consequence of experience which has been acknowledged and understood. Professional educators will benefit from reflecting on what Ian Cunningham experienced and comparing how their own learning has taken place and how it will continue.

Dr Harry Gray, President , WISDOM Academy


This book is a gift. The Self Managed Learning College is a beacon of hope.

I personally found this book illuminating and was struck by the boldness and bravery of some controversial and utterly convincing ideas.

Ian writes cogently and elegantly. Every term is carefully considered, placed within a rich historical context.

His ideas were - and continue to be - pioneering. I admire Dr Cunningham's wisdom and humility.

Many members of our network of pioneers around the country turn to Ian for guidance and support; this book is a beautiful way to collate and articulate many insightful perspectives into one document, for people to refer back to time and time again.

Self Managed Learning is a distinctive model, which I hope many will wish to emulate in years to come. If all schools were turned into Self Managed Learning Colleges, the world would be a brighter, happier and more enlightening place.

This book has humanity & humility, intellectual insight & academic rigour, reflection and practical guidance. If you're an educator interested in doing things differently, this book is for you!

Having visited the College, I can attest to the jovial, relaxed yet industrious atmosphere, where young people have retained their innate curiosity and follow their passions and interests. It's a very natural place. This is how education should feel.

Danny Whitehouse, Chief Executive, Charles Burrell Centre

Guardian Member and Company Secretary, Phoenix Education TrustFreelance education consultant and youth worker. Founder, Reimagining Education Norfolk


What a joy to read about Self Managed Learning.

This is the guide for authentic support for young people’s holistic learning about the world & themselves. It supports the natural curiosity of young people to find their own path with self confidence in choices they have made not ones imposed on them. Thank you, Ian for enlightening reading.

Christine Price, Treasurer & founding member of Australasian Democratic Education Community. Secretary of Children’s Learning & Children’s Rights, Australia


Ian Cunningham, who is the first, or one of the first, people to recognise self-development and work on how to enable it (self-development has presumably always gone on largely implicitly). It is interesting that such a long book is needed to deal with it.  However the words are not wasted and contain much wisdom and practical advice. Well done Ian.

Dr John Burgoyne,  Emeritus Professor at Lancaster University.


While compulsory schooling mainly serves human-centered capital reproduction and economic competitions, human beings is regarded as the major resource, a functional role of social building block, but the most needs of humanity is often being neglected in the settings of young people and their learning guiders. Dr. Ian Cunningham and his collaborators bravely founded the Self Managed Learning College and practice a new way to solve this world-wide problem. Their over decade long stories, experiences and on-the-ground researches must enlighten or inspire other pioneers in their approaches towards a new education or a learning exploration in forming healthy information societies.

Ann Qiu, Director, iSkool, Shanghai


The most valuable currency for any society are the open minded, creative human beings able to solve complex problems in cooperation with others in the continuously changing environment.  Education systems from  nurseries to PhD programs have to nurture development of these types of talents. Ian’s book on the New Educational Paradigm is an excellent, very timely and rightly justified resource based on experience and extensively researched theoretical findings for those who are responsible for shaping not only better economies, but also better societies.

Prof.Dr.Magdolna Csath,  Emeritus Professor at the Saint Stephan’s University,  Gödöllő, Hungary, research professor at the National University for Public Service, Budapest, Hungary, member of the National Competitiveness Council at the Finance Minister of Hungary.


Ian Cunningham has provided a deeply engaging analysis of his work with young people and SML (Self Managed Learning). His clear explanations of the theoretical bases for his work, his descriptions of SML in practice and the open hearted stories from the young people themselves are essential reading for anyone involved with learning.

Wendy Pettit, Currambena School, Sydney, Australia


A brave, life-enhancing book of immense contemporary importance. At once practical and  profound, creative and deeply challenging of dominant models of education currently suffocating so many societies across the world, Ian Cunningham draws on a wide range of experience in industry and in education to explore and advocate the practicability and desirability of life-affirming alternatives that inspire hope and resolve in equal measure.

Michael Fielding, Emeritus Professor of Education, Institute of Education, University College London, UK


Ian Cunningham’s ground-breaking work to develop Self Managed Learning has given hope and a positive future to many young people over the years. This book is long overdue and is a valuable pointer to an approach which truly puts young people in control of their learning. Required reading for policy makers, school leaders and teachers alike if we are to develop an education system that meets the genuine needs of children and society going forward.

Fiona Carnie, author of Alternative Approaches to Education (2017) and Rebuilding our Schools from the Bottom Up (2018), published by Routledge


Having known Ian and his work with Self Managed Learning for many decades I am certain that his model is at the core of any new educational paradigm. Proof of concept and efficacy is long established and only desire to maintain control over the individual, custom and practice maintains the schooling paradigm. SML strips away the inefficiencies and distractions of age-stage proscribed curricular and assessment progressions, uniforms, bells, whistles and all the appendages of the industrial epoch and replaces them with an altogether mature, coherent democratic and sustainable educational approach befitting of the 21st century.

SML works. I have seen it in action spoken with and heard from its students and learning advisers. I have seen young people destroyed by the inflexibility of the schooling paradigm rise phoenix-like to take control of their own lives and learning. However, this is not just something for those who can’t cope with the schooling model. All young people should have access to this model of learning, its logical, incredibly efficient and successful.

Substitute the extrinsic control and motivation, the redundancy of so much learning and sheer drudgery and inflexibility of schooling and replace it with the personalisation at the heart of SML. Here ownership, self-management and responsibility, replace coercion and compulsion. Learners are literally in the driving seat and the trusted community learning advisers and educators around them assist through dialogue, guidance, challenge.

The global schooling disease annually digs itself into further trouble and at great expense. The race to nowhere produces endless damaging, unintended consequences to the learners, the teachers and society at large. The schooling ‘own goals’ leave too many young people with unstable mental health, poor physical health, incoherent and unconnected learning and skills. If a fraction of the resource could be applied to SML society at large would reap the benefits of having educated, responsible, fulfilled and self-directed citizens.

SML leads to an education, self-management and deep learning. The learning journey is one that’s led and owned by the young person and co-created with learning advisers. It’s a far cry from the schooling illusion, the superficial, predominantly instructional ‘done to’ paradigm a product of a bygone age.  Ian Cunningham’s argument is that SML is an insight into a new paradigm. I wholeheartedly concur, it can’t come quick enough.

Since 1979 Ian and his team have evidenced that SML works at any age from young people to blue chip company executives. Its clear, logical, essentially simple and like all the best ideas damn right efficient. SML is eminently scalable. A shift in this direction would be truly transformative on individual and societal levels and finally put to bed the redundant, pale, superficial factory schooling that has held sway for far too long.

Peter Humphreys. Former: Headteacher, educational adviser, consultant, researcher, Chair Centre for Personalised Education, Visiting Lecturer in Teacher Education.


You can purchase Self Managed Learning and the New Educational Paradigm on Amazon.