Thursday, June 01, 2006

A new Era of Creativity for schools.

  Posted by Picasa A dramatic world wide change is now occurring as the world slides out of the Industrial Age into what some call a ‘post modern’ era .Others call it the ‘Information Age’ (led by new technology) or the Age of Ideas or even the ‘Second Renaissance’.

Whatever it is called thing are going to change – and quickly. The question is, can societies and their institutions, with their genesis in the Industrial or Modern age, change quickly enough, or will new forms emerge or evolve. The latter has been the story of history.

By 2020 will we recognize our world?

The trouble with change it is like being caught in the rain without enough information to see the weather .To see patterns this you need the distance of space or time, or at least an understanding of the ‘big picture’.

The future survival of any country, in this new dynamic evolutionary era, will require their citizens to be creative risk takers with a ‘can do’ attitude able to make decisions with partial information. And, if they are wise, they will see that education is the key to their future prosperity and survival.

A short history of the patterns of the last half century both indicates hopefulness and despair in regard to education.

Following the massive industrialization during and after World War Two Western societies settled into a conservative and security conscious decade. In schools it was the ‘Three Rs’ and straight rows and teachers ‘transmitted’ agreed prescribed knowledge to learners. There were pioneer teachers with alternative ideas but they acted as ‘sleepers’ for future change; the time was definitely not right!

Almost without warning the sixties introduced freedom and experimentation and 'love was in the air' as was disrespect for traditional values and institutions. It is said, 'if you remember the sixties you weren’t there'! By the seventies the world had changed – or so it seemed. Schools changed dramatically ( well perhaps only primary schools - secondary schools were and remain far more impervious to change). ‘Child centred' activity methods were introduced- out went the straight rows (and the strap) and in came group work and developmental programmes. Teachers in this period gained a high degree of autonomy and discretion. A ‘1000 flowers bloomed’ but not all were to last.

By the late 70s, after it seemed all teacher had ‘jumped onto the bandwagon’, things were not well and the time was right for more changes. As well, in this era of social conscience, all sorts of programmes were dropped on school to solve. All of a sudden teacher autonomy was replaced by imposed curriculums and only the dedicated few creative teachers remained true to their child centred principles.

By the 80s the time was right worldwide for a dramatic change of direction – the ideology of ‘market forces’. Competition, individuality, efficiency, accountability and choice were the new buzz words. And eventually this reached down to schools where in NZ ‘Tomorrows Schools’ were made ‘self managing’ and competitive. Ironically schools could manage everything (like a ‘business’) except the curriculum which was imposed and to which all schools had to comply with and be held accountable to. The curriculums, with their endless strands, levels and learning objectives, turned teachers in to ‘deliverers’ of other people ideas. Technocratic ‘mindsets’ were in control.

These were difficult times for creative teachers or leaders in this era of ‘managerialism’ and measured outcomes. Schools became ( and still are) ‘over managed and under led’. The 'market forces' ideology led to 'winner and loser' school that matched the growing gap between the ‘have and have nots’ of the wider society. This was to be the Industrial, or Modern Efficiency Age, at its worst.

But thingS are changing world wide once again and, once again, new patterns of thought will reach down to the schools. This time, with leadership, schools could lead the changes and not simply respond to idea 'delivered from on high' by people who have little understanding of the realities of the classroom.

The ‘new’ cuuricum, due in June, fits in well with this new conception or ‘mindset’. Schools will at last be given greater freedom and flexibility to ‘design’ (not ‘deliver’) programmes according to local needs. The now incoherent so called rational curriculums have now been reduced to essentials that will still provide the necessary unity and consistency within, and between, schools. ‘How to learn’ is now more important but this needs to be as a result of in-depth integrated learning. Pedagogy has been ‘dug up, dusted down’ and is now to be central.

Schools will now be able to develop themselves as ‘professional learning communities’ and will need to focus on creating the conditions to tap into the creativity and shared wisdom of their teachers so as to develop the citizens of the future on whose creativity we will depend on.

For many creative teachers who have had to keep their heads down the last decade or so, this will be affirmation of their beliefs and for those who taught in the 60s a case of ‘deju vu’.

I wonder if we still have the leaders to lead such a change?

In 1986 the then Minister of Education introduced an ‘Education Review’. This was nation wide conversation based around key questions to do with the future of education. Perhaps the time is right again for another nation wide dialogue to tap into the wisdom of all.

At the very least this is a conversation that every school ought to have with its community.


Anonymous said...

Knowledge as a verb not a noun is the future - the ability to find and use new ideas is the 'capital' of the new age. The transmission of past knowledge is history.

We have to do the sixties again - but this time properly!

Anonymous said...

Be great if what you say is right.

Anonymous said...

Engaging a community in a meaningful way is really hard as many just don't care or are too busy. What makes it so hard too is the mixed messages we get from the MOE and other well meaning organisations. Focus on core business yep Numeracy and Literacy - no complaints from me there. but now there are so many Curriculum pressure groups all wanting their cause promoted. When asking parents for ideas on our core business and values etc. their responses are now so broad because of the complexity between achievement demands and social demands. This headache isn't going away.
The social demands on primary schools has changed hugely in the past 20 years. Obesity, environment, dog danger, Train safety, fireworks safety, if there's a social problem, .... lets just pay a consultant or get specialist to design a programme that we can get it into the primary schools.

Hell I'm confused now.....what is our core business??!!

Time given to this is time taken from that.

Design a holistic, well grounded curriculum that gives great kids a great time.
P.S. Fun has to be a value that is promoted too! Get the fun factor back into school..for staff and kids

Bruce Hammonds said...

Amber -Lee. Change is confusing and difficult and it is far easier to live within the comforts of the 'status quo'. But as President Reagan said,'The status quo, you know, is the mess we are in now'. Only the brave will inherit the future - it is a myth that the timid will inherit the earth. Or perhaps that's the second prize?
So go out on a limb - that where the best friut is!

Hope you enjoy our next e-zine.Out this week.

And my next 'blog' - when it arrives!

Anonymous said...

Great comment Bruce
I'll use that with Staff