Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Less Reform more Vision
Saw a great quote in something I read last week, ‘Data, data everywhere and not a thought to think.’ The ‘evidence based’ mantra is currently all the rage.
Schools are busy setting targets to prove to all and sundry that they have achieved what they have decided in an attempt, somehow, to reduce the so called ‘achievement tail’. It seems the ‘tail is wagging the dog’. And as for targets, it is not the ones that you hit that count, it is the one you miss. Or as one writer says, ‘targets and outputs end up as handcuffs’ narrowing ones attention and, in the process, limiting creativity and initiative.
If we had a vision that emphasized personalized learning tailored to the needs of every student we would achieve far more than ineffective imposed reforms. What we need is a broad picture of where we as a country and in turn how education can contribute.
Do those who decide what school should do really believe that they can solve ‘our’ problems with their answers provided from on high and contracted out to be spread lightly around schools? Do they really have the right to tell us all what to think? Isn’t this kind of thinking more to do with some past Victorian paternalist mentality?
Take the curriculum. Where did such a strange beast come from? It has proved unmanageable but only after schools had wasted a lot of time and energy trying to implement it. Thank goodness it is currently away being ‘sorted out’. In the meantime we are to be saved by the introduction of ‘key competencies’. Where did the Ministry pick up such a technocratic word for the dispositions all students need to develop to thrive in an uncertain future? And what is so new about them? John Dewey would be turning in his grave!
Teachers have to learn to stop being curriculum ‘deliverers' and become curriculum ‘designers.’
Not withstanding the importance of literacy and numeracy (the current obsession) what about the importance of the ‘balanced curriculum’ that was at least promised with the introduction of the National Curriculum? It is within the remainder of the curriculum where there are the enriching experiences that will allow the development of student’s talents. Talent development must trump literacy and numeracy. These must be seen for what they are, ‘foundation skills'. Talent development and ‘learnacy’ are far more important but all to often literacy and numeracy are allowed to have ‘gobble up’ all the time available.
School that focus their targets and teaching on literacy and numeracy are missing the point. Creative schools that don’t could well be at risk when facing up to the ‘thought police’ in the shape of the Education Review Office but they could also be recognized for their courage and initiative so it is worth the risk.
High quality creative balanced programmes, developed by teachers with passion that engage students, will always win out. Such programmes not only stretch student’s minds but integrate literacy and numeacy naturally as important tools.
We have to move away from a centralized system that is hooked on continual reform and the endless gobbledygook of new phases such as, ‘targets’, ‘evidence based,’ ‘outputs’, ‘delivery’ and other current technocratic language, and instead, develop a vision that taps and shares the wisdom and values that exits in local expertise.
Such democratic ideas would develop the all the often hidden talents that exist in all our students and future citizens.
We need a creative vision for the21stC.