Posted on: February 28, 2021
Written by Brenda Watson, author of Making Education Fit for Democracy.
The purpose of this blog is to encourage discussion about what education concerns, and how the way it is organised can change.
THE NEED FOR EDUCATION REFORM
Education is in serious need of radical reform. It requires not only cosmetic changes but re-thinking what schooling is really about If we are clear about this, we can then think about how best it can be promoted.
THE COVID EXPERIENCE
The Covid experience has helped many people to see that education needs to be reformed. Just as importantly, it has also helped people to see that it can be done in a very different way. The unusual situation in which people have found themselves has shown what imagination and determination can achieve as new approaches are explored.
1. What to do about Exams?
They have been so disrupted that the one-time simple reliance on their appropriateness has been severely challenged. In fact why do we give such prominence to exams in education? They may help in some respects but their downsides are considerable, and encourage teaching with a view to passing the tests instead of educating persons. Exams easily give the impression that knowledge is only about facts. Opinions however are always inter-woven with what we call facts, so it is damaging to separate them.
Fig 7.1 from Making Education Fit for Democracy p.132
We now have a marvellous opportunity to move beyond this reliance on exams.
2. Don't we need the curriculum to be personalised?
Isn’t the purpose of schooling to enable each child/student to work on what is really relevant to them, enabling them to grow as persons?
Fig 8.1 What’s problematic about a pre-ordained curriculum from Making Education Fit for Democracy p.142
During lockdowns, people have experienced how this can work — using the best technology available with interesting and flexible materials developed by teachers and lecturers who really care. This is something which can easily continue after a return to normal conditions.
3. Re-thinking the purpose of education.Too often we have taken education for granted as a good thing, without really thinking what it should be about
It is not basically about passing exams.
It is not about going through the same curriculum as everyone else.
It is not just about learning to be digitally literate.
Why indeed do we bother with schools?
Fig 6.1 Why do we have schools? from Making Education Fit for Democracy p.114
Education is far more important. It can indeed be a life-line in an uncertain world. It can be this if it nurtures those values that always matter and are always worth living for, whatever the circumstances: concern for truth, for justice, for compassion and for beauty. Pursuing these ideals will enable people to become the best they can as people as well as helping to ensure a healthy and democratic society.
4. Utilising the fantastic powers possible now through using technology
Education should be at the forefront of how digital technology is used. Its dangers — as well as its exciting opportunities — need to be appreciated, and good use must be practised. Technology is not something to be frightened of but something to befriend. It can take many of the chores away from teachers and enable them to concentrate on their primary task — inspiring people to become educated.
The time is ripe for reform. Let’s embrace it with imagination and courage.
Do you agree?