Book Description

Self Managed Learning and the New Educational Paradigm proposes revolutionary change to the educational system. The overwhelming research evidence is that the sum total of educational and training input accounts typically for only 10–20% of what makes a person an effective human being.

Balancing theory, evidence and practice, this ground-breaking book demonstrates that current structures in education are ill-equipped to support a learning-based approach. It establishes the case that learning, as a core human activity, is too important to be left to schools and other educational institutions. The book goes beyond just a critique of current practice in showing how a New Educational Paradigm can work. Self Managed Learning College (for 9–17 year olds) has no classrooms, no lessons, no imposed timetable and no imposed curriculum. This is a place where students can learn whatever they want, in any way they want and whenever they want. And it works – as evidenced by the lives of former students and from academic research. Dr Ian Cunningham, its founder, draws also on his extensive work in using Self Managed Learning in many of the world’s largest organisations to show how this new paradigm can be put into practice.

The book blends the unequivocal research evidence that we need a New Educational Paradigm with a real live demonstration of what it could look like. It should be essential reading for anyone wanting to see how a new approach to education can be achieved.

Table of Contents

  1. An Introduction to the Basics of Self Managed Learning  2. An Introduction to Self Managed Learning College  3. The Centrality of Learning  4. History and Background  5. An Evidence Basis for Action  6. Some Evidence and a Response to this Evidence – with a Focus on Schooling  7. The Wider Evidence about Learning and Education – and its Implications  8. The Experience of Self Managed Learning  9. The Roles of Adults  10. Some Conclusions and Some Directions



Dr Ian Cunningham is a former Chief Executive of a business school and head of an international learning and development consultancy. He is the founder of Self Managed Learning College, Sussex, UK.

Copyright Year 2021

ISBN 9780367219666


174 Pages – 2 B/W Illustrations



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

Self Managed Learning works. I have seen it in action, spoken with and heard from its students. 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. It is logical, incredibly efficient and successful.

Peter Humphreys, former headteacher and chair of the Centre for Personalised Education, UK

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

The book contains much wisdom and practical advice.

John Burgoyne, Emeritus Professor at Lancaster University, UK.

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.

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

Dr Ian Cunningham and his collaborators bravely founded Self Managed Learning College. Their experiences and on-the-ground researches must enlighten and inspire other pioneers in their approaches towards a new education.

Ann Qiu, Director, iSkool, Shanghai, China

This is a book everyone involved in education should read. 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.

Dr Harry Gray, President , WISDOM Academy, 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

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.

Magdolna Csath, Emeritus Professor, Saint Stephan’s University, Gödöllő, Hungary. Research professor, National University for Public Service, Budapest, Hungary. Member of the National Competitiveness Council, Ministry of Finance, Hungary.