Saturday, December 09, 2006

Schools need to change a lot faster

Posted by Picasa I nave been lucky enough over the years to attend several presentations by Ruth Sutton an international educational consultant from the UK.

Ruth is appreciated by all for her intellectual honesty and insight about the purpose of schools in the 21stC. She pulls no punches and this makes is a refreshing change from advisers who work on contract to the Ministry.

By chance I recently came across Ruth's views about the challenge of schools to prepare their students for the 21stC.

Students leaving school this year, Ruth writes, will find a world very different from when they started school in the early 90s. Back then hardly anyone had heard of the Internet and mobile phones were just expensive status symbols. In just over a decade their world has been transformed but is education, Ruth asks, changing fast enough to equip students with the right skills?

Ruth's opinion is that schools will need to change a lot faster if they are to meet the needs of their students. Ruth is very critical of moves towards national testing as all this creates are schools teaching students to become test takers and, as well, any short term gains soon flatten out. Such imposed testing, she believes, is to the detriment of good teaching. 'At the end of day',she says, ' it's only the child or the teacher who can make anything happen... if the child does not know what to do next then there isn't going to be an improvement.'

If you want 21stC attributes for a new work environment, Ruth believes, you need different kinds of teaching and learning .You need, she says, ' open minds not convergent minds and you need open teaching not convergent teaching.'

White Ruth thinks primary teachers are doing a good job preparing learners for the the future she is less enamored in what she sees at the secondary level,' I think there's a huge divide within the secondary education community....between people who are actually very interested in the 21stC skills ...and people who are nostalgic for 19thC skills'. ' Some people are drawn', Ruth says, ' to the tradition of kids in rows, three hour exams, the "rigour" and isolation of it, the competitive edge particularly appeals to boy's schools. And it obviously fits with their model of what is a good education.It is very hard to square that with what learners in the 21stC , both young learners and adult learners, will need to focus on.'

Ironically, Ruth believes, older teachers may be able to adapt to new styles of teaching than young teachers whose experience has only been of accountability pressures and the requirements of complying to complicated national curriculums. Such teachers have known nothing else and the 'mindsets' they have gained in the process will be hard to break.

'To say to such teachers' , Ruth comments, 'now is the time to bring the adventure back into teaching - well that is fine but hard to change when you have been grinding through the programme for twenty years.You've lost the habit somehow; you've got to get it back.'

Teachers who taught in the 70s , Ruth says, weren't so constrained and could be quite adventurous involving often 'outrageous' things to designed to engage kids or make them laugh or involve them.

What we need is some courageous leadership to encourage teachers to take the 'risks' necessary to change their approaches ; it will take courage, particularly at the secondary level, but it promises more exciting teaching and learning.

Lets hope this is the intent of the new draft curriculum.


Anonymous said...

The challenge for educators will be to develop a philosophy that encourages talent developmnt, learning how to learn, and tolerance, across all ages; secondary schools will have to move into the 21stC century or be bi-passed!

I place my money on them being bi-passed!

Anonymous said...

Secondary schools - museums of past practices.