I have waited a while to write this post. It follows on in the series I started on this topic. It seems clear that the Brexit vote was about three key elements: taking control (whatever that means) of our own money, our own laws and our own immigration. I hope to write another blog on those three things another time, but in this time of transition, we must ask ourselves some questions about the kind of future we want to co-create.
I have to say that when I look at our education system, I am both heartened and dismayed. I am heartened by the amazing quality of teachers across the UK, but I am dismayed by how they are treated as a profession by our mainstream press. I am heartened by the quality of our children and young people and the hopeful possibilities they carry, but I am dismayed by the increased burden of mental health problems many of them suffer. I am heartened that there is so much great thought around education and a shared learning between nations about how to release the potential in each child, but I am dismayed by the lack of application of this learning within the UK. I am heartened that there is an increasing realisation that Ofsted reports can offer only a small snapshot of what goes on in any school and are not a fair representation of all that goes on in any one institution, but I am dismayed by our growing measurement problem. By this I mean that the constant scoring and grading of our children and young people and the comparisons made between our various schools is so detrimental to their development and achievement that we ought to seriously consider the weight it is allowed to carry in our education systems. When our children and young people are some of the least happy in Europe and live in a country where the gap between the richest and poorest, both in terms of economics and educational ‘outcomes’ is one of the worst in Europe, we have to ask ourselves some searching questions.
So, in reimagining education, let’s reaffirm that every child is unique, beautiful, worthy of love and full of potential. Let’s also recognise that our education system now is one of the few things that has not evolved since the time of the Industrial Revolution and is itself in need of serious renewal and transformation. In Germany, they have managed to elevate practical skills and knowledge to that of intellect. This has given them the ability as a nation to have a much more diverse economy, especially investing in green technologies and manufacturing in a way that cares for the future. In Finland, they have a reverence for the teaching profession that we would do well to adopt here. We need to think of teaching as a sacred gift and it needs to be taken this seriously by those who pursue it as a career. A Head Teacher I know recently told me that she no longer needs teachers who see themselves as having a job, but those who understand that teaching is a vocation and a calling. It is about being willing to parent a generation, not just fill them with knowledge.
Our educational environments must be places where we teach our children how to think, not just what to think, how to converse, not just what to say and how to listen attentively not only hear. We must help them learn about their own personalities and gift mixes. We must help them to think about the values from which they live, speak and act, helping them therefore to shape their behaviours in line with this (Steve Peters). We must allow them to question some of the damaging ways we live (war, pollution, work-patterns) and dream of and learn to create futures of peace, sustainability and wellness. We need a vision large enough to ensure that each generation creates a seedbed of opportunity for the next.
The danger of becoming more ‘in control’ (as per our Brexit wishes) is that we become more controlling. The purpose of education is not to control but to release, not to maintain the status quo but to attain a brighter future, not to perpetuate hate and violence but to breathe love and peace, not to tear down but to build up and encourage, not to divide but to build community, not to prepare human beings to be fodder for the economic machine but to ensure the economy serves them to be live a life of hope-filled potential. As with healthcare, we need to de-politicise the education system, hold dear in our hearts those given to teach, caring for their wellbeing and minding how we speak of them. We must partner with them and entrust them with our precious caterpillars as they hold them through the great metamorphosis that is learning before they spread their wings and make their flight to shine like stars in a future sky that the rest of us will never see.
‘Our education system now is one of the few things that has not evolved since the time of the Industrial Revolution’.
Really? Balderdash, sir!
Almost impossible to depoliticise the education system, not because education is stuffed with lefties as some on the right continually want to suggest (simply, factually incorrect), but because governments of every stripe can’t resist meddling with (read messing-up) the education system. I completely agree – there are far too many tests, a ridiculous over-emphasis on purely academic subjects with practical subjects, having been undervalued for years, now being almost completely removed from our schools, a teaching profession under-valued, overwhelmed and underpaid and a host of other depressing problems, but surely those are, in themselves, political points.
And yes, teaching is a vocation, but surely nobody goes into teaching for the money. I’m wary of Headteacher’s who pursue that line – it sounds like an excuse for expecting teachers to swallow ridiculous workloads and derisory pay.
What do you think to this?https://youtu.be/Zw_7_r-D5Kk
I think it supports the arguments: some elements of schools haven’t changed since the Industrial Revolution and Some people’s attitude to education is based on serving the Military Industrial Complex. I have no problem with either of those. But both are a very long way from your assertion.
Sorry, got interrupted just as I was warming up.
Can’t think when I last whacked a student on the back of the head with a book. Yes. school’s still have timetables, and classes which are too large and a set syllabus. But siting that as evidence that education hasn’t changed is like saying two hospitals are identical because they both have wards and operating theatres. I have one of Ken Robinson’s books. He speaks well and writes well, but I gave up on his book (probably too quickly) when it seemed that it would all be grounded in personal anecdote without any research to back it up. Maybe I’ll read it and get back to you.
When I was at school pupils were often beaten by teachers. Some teachers used outright intimidation and humiliation to rule their classrooms. History was taught as the transmission of facts, the weighing of evidence (which I think is still key despite Gove’s revisionist agenda) wasn’t even considered. Teachers were the sole arbiters of progress and the idea that you might have to think for yourself about how you learn was unheard of. Some students were allowed to drop Science subjects when they were 14.
Going back further still – my Grandfather had to learn to write with his right-hand despite being left-handed. He left school at 10. I’ll stop there but I’m sure I could go on…
Ha! I stand corrected! Much appreciate your insights!