Having just watched Sir Ken Robinson's latest video about the need for a change in education, I am once again prompted to write about the urgency for understanding among educators in our schools and our society. You see, leaders and teachers are stuck in a tug of war between educating our learners for the future and educating our learners for success in our standards driven system. Listen to Sir Ken here.
Children are natural learners. Sir Ken talks about children as natural learners and how "education" is at odds with this. He thinks that school wears away at the curiosity of children, until they become disengaged and bored.
He thinks that the human factor has been removed from education due to the emphasis on competition, standardisation and testing. He supports the involvement of a movement called GERM - global education reform movement - to remove the industrial element from education and replace with an organic one. He states that the GERM approach is "command and control" whereas he believes it should be about climate control - creating the right conditions for learning.
Our education system is like industrial agriculture. His comparison of education to the industrialisation of agriculture - with the emphasis on yield and outputs having a resultant big price to pay (environment and soil erosion) - points to the idea that you need to get the natural process of teaching and learning right. We have to create the optimal conditions in schools for each child to thrive as an individual, not as one of identical size, shape and colour. We need a cultural climate for learning.
Leaders have a role to play. As long as our society values results in standardisation, this will not change. I have heard school leaders saying that they do not see the need to change because they are successful in terms of "results" - these being NCEA or national standard results. They are traditional and that is what their parents want. Parents want their children to be educated in the same way that they were and they want them to achieve well in standardised tests. Sadly, the future will not look like it did for them.
Moral purpose: I do believe that leaders need to think about the moral purpose of education, and start educating their school communities about the moral purpose of education, as well. We need to prepare our learners to survive AND thrive in the future world. Our learners need to develop their own personal strengths and passions so that they can find their place in the knowledge society.