Sunday, June 05, 2005
Facing up to reality in education.
Solves all problems!
When you are closely involved with anything it is often difficult to face up to the reality that surrounds us. As the joke goes, ‘When you are up to your backside in alligators it is hard to remember you came to drain the swamp!’
In our own lives, well mine anyway, we often ignore major issues of health and future wellbeing and prefer being sidetracked, or distracted, by the immediacy or gratification of the present.
But now and then it is important to stop and think ahead and consider possible future scenarios.
I recently went to a meeting which pointed out that the crisis of the peak production of oil is only a few years away. When it peaks oil will become increasingly more expensive to produce. This must be too difficult for governments, or individuals, to face up to to so we continue to rely on oil, not considering what will happen when it eventfully runs out or becomes too expensive. In the meantime we act as if there is no possibility of a future crisis. The same applies for a range of environmental and social issues, even though we know that historically many past cultures have paid the price for unthinkingly using up all their natural resources. Today, due to progress and technology, the world itself may be in crisis. The concept of sustainability, it also seems, is too hard to comprehend for all but a few written off as ‘greenies’
In the area of education there are a number of equally troubling realities that no one wants to consider. That our 'creaky’ system is locked into structures designed for another age seems of no concern. That we currently still fail almost third of our students worries few; the so called achievement gap attracts only minor tinkering from politicians. Then there is the lack of coordination, or coherence, between the various levels of our education ‘system’, that have grown like ‘topsy’ and work with little coordination or sharing of philosophy. Many students, as they transfer from early childhood to primary, primary to intermediate, and intermediate to secondary, must find each transition like visiting a foreign country. Research indicates that too many students cannot make the transfer, particularly as they reach the higher levels. We more have a credibility gap than an achievement gap.
What we need in education is a conversation between everyone in all communities as to what kind of world our students are entering, and what attributes they will need to thrive in what some are call a ‘learning society’. Factory models of schooling are no longer appropriate. Passing out a few computers will change little. There is a real need to replace the current transmission and fragmented model of education (seen most clearly at the higher levels)with a personalized system tailored to help every student develop the necessary skills and personal talents.
I guess this is all too hard to face up to. Peter Drucker, the business philosopher, has written that no country has as yet designed a future orientated education system and the first country to do so will be the winner in the new century.
Be great if it were NZ but I guess there is too much invested in preserving the status quo; too much shifting educational deck chairs on the Titanic; to many antiquated educational mindsets; and too many other less important things to distract us!
We are like fish, another saying goes, who were the last to discover water!