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Why the learning revolution isn’t happening

Further to last nights rant, I’ve been pondering more on what’s going on with education at the moment.

As this article shows, almost everything we know about how to get the best out of young people is systematically ignored by the school system. We’ve known this for a while and yet we (as a country) seem to lack the political will to do anything about it.

I’ve finally come up with a theory.

You see in most organistaions everyone agrees what the point is. They might not agree on the best way to get their, but the overall objective is known, if not explictity stated. The problem with the UK education system is that we have two competing visions of what it’s for. And even worse, no one ever seems to want to discuss it.

On the one hand you’ve got what Ken Robinson describes as ‘a protracted process of university entrance’. In other words a system whse underliying purpose is to divide people into categories. The ‘intelligent’ ones who will go to university, the ‘practical’ ones who will join the trades, and the ‘others’ who will do whatever the others tell them. So far, so 1950s. Routed in the class system, the very thing that comprehensive education was supposed to get rid of. Except it didn’t. A throwaway remark by David Mitchell on a recent QI made it clear to the extent that that view still exists, perhaps more so on the right of politics.

On the other hand there’s the system that says actually, the point of education is to develop each individual. That tries to value the individual and make it relevant to them. A system that values learning above everything else – above exams (which are firmly part of the previous system by the way), above the way schools are currently structured, above all the vested interests in keeping the system the way it is. This is the system many of us have been talking about over the last few years, and yet we seem virtually no closer than we were 10 years ago.

And until we have this debate and work out exactly what the point of the education system is, everything about the old system, everything that values that old point of education will continue to shackle and restrain everything other that occasional and local reform.

So why don’t we have the debate? I suspect, in part, it’s because we’re afraid we might lose.
Postscript: Oh, and in case anyone’s asking, no academies are not the solution here. The idea that the market can in some way inspire the kind of innovation required here is founded in cloud cuckoo land. Yes, it might in one or two cases, but with the mass academyisation being proposed in England at the moment I predict that within 5 years most of England’s acadmies will be run by a handful of companies. And if you don’t like SIMS, imagine if those prinicples were applied to the school system!

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Dave Stacey

2 Comments

  1. Good blog post. I think it is interesting that there is a certain acceptance within the UK government that culture plays an important role in our societies well being. This does not seem to have rolled over into our education system in terms of supporting creativity and this is somewhat evident in the recent demise of the Learning Revolution government website due to recent cuts. So as you say the market economy wont inspire creative based education/innovation but it certainly helps to remove it.

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