Back in 2013 we wrote the following:
Rearranging the Deckchairs
“You didn’t have to be an absolute genius back in 1912 [the year of the Titanic’s one and only voyage] to imagine that aircraft would become bigger, faster, more comfortable, more reliable, cheaper, more affordable and far preferable as a means of travel for people who were in a hurry to get from A to B, or from the UK to the USA, France, Germany and everywhere else.
You don’t have to be a genius to recognise that the 19th Century paradigm of education is no longer fit for purpose, and to foresee that all phases of education serving all sections of the population will undergo enormous changes – thanks to technology, innovation and greater insights into learning processes and appropriate pedagogy – throughout the 21st Century. The question is – what to do about it?
Whilst some countries continue to tinker with the old paradigm – which is like installing radar and sonar and better stabilisers on the next set of superliners – others have already turned their attention to the need to redesign, rather than reform or upgrade, the entire system. In fact there are several countries where this has already happened – where 16+ examinations have been scrapped, where formative assessment is seen as far more valuable than summative assessment, where learning makes full use of all the available technology, where students co-create their learning pathways and where learning is truly personalised, allowing learners to move at an appropriate pace in the company of other supportive learners.
As a result, these countries not only produce school leavers who have enjoyed their school careers more than elsewhere, they also leave school with higher levels of all six intelligences and higher levels of self-confidence and self esteem. They are also better at directing their own learning and are more likely to see themselves as lifelong learners. They also turn out to be better at problem-solving and creative endeavors. What’s more, they do better at the OECD/PISA formal tests which compare outcomes throughout the world.”
“What’s more, employers are crying out for people who are self-starters and lifelong learners, and they will become increasingly sophisticated at spotting these young people and rejecting those who simply excel at sitting timed tests and examinations. (The Confederation of British Industry has already told us that it wants to end 16+ exams and that employers want to recruit young people who are creative, articulate, problem-solving team players.)
Our Secretaries of State for education have proved themselves to be quite tireless as they beaver away at re-arranging the deckchairs on the Titantic. Will future Education Secretaries continue to do the same thing?
So is this really a time to keep a steady course, let the band play on, keep calm and carry on, whilst we continue to hope for the best? Or is it time to fly?”
This morning on BBC Radio 4 we heard voices discussing whether education needs to change as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and also through the increased use of computers, the internet and broadband to support or even replace established learning in traditional classrooms.
Rethink: Fast Forward https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000k99h
We believe the following.
Children must never become passive, isolated, remotely-directed, programmed learners – gazing at screens for hours on end and carrying out assignments in silent compliance with demands for ever-higher “standards” in order to attain non-negotiable targets for themselves and their schools. This is unfortunately happening during this lockdown period, and we’ve seen examples of school environments where students sit alone in booths with their screens, keyboards and mice.
Back in 2013, having visited an exhibition of computer hardware and software in London, we said this:
“The majority of the ‘players’ [manufacturers and retailers] seem content to sell their technological wares to those that simply want more of the same, but who want it faster, smarter and brighter. Look out, though, for those that are preparing for redesign, not reform.
We confidently predict that there will continue to be a market in ocean-going liners for those who can afford luxury and leisurely cruises through the world’s watery playgrounds. We also predict that there will continue to be a market for ‘elite’ schools which provide an ‘elite’ education aimed at gaining access for privileged pupils to ‘elite’ universities.
The question will then be – will those universities that consider themselves to be ‘the elite’ continue to offer places to those who have shown they can perform at exceptional levels in timed examinations, or will they want students who are the best and the fastest learners – self-motivated, creative individuals who are adept at producing knowledge as well as being voracious consumers of a wide range of knowledge and an understanding which goes beyond the syllabus and the formal curriculum?
This is not to say that the world won’t still need its unimaginative plodders who are content to follow orders and do unexciting work. Of course it will. It will also need its ‘professionals’ who will need to show their grasp of large bodies of knowledge and a range of skills. What we’re questioning is whether our education system is set to deliver any of the skills, attitudes and expertise the world will need in the future, and whether students will be willing to pay the cost of the traditional means of acquiring those qualifications if there are other routes available, especially into entrepreneurial businesses and commercial organisations that value skills and operational abilities above paper qualifications.”
We continue to believe that we need a system of education that is radically updated, redesigned, reinvented and reimagined – by UK standards. We continue to point out that there are countries where such reinventions and redesigns took place more than a decade ago. Many of our excellent schools have done their own updating and reimagining, but are still having to cope with an inflexible and inappropriate national curriculum, unnecessary ‘high stakes’ tests and exams at 11, 16 and 18, a serious lack of funding and far too little technology and other resources.
It’s time to move on.