Changing education is not enough

The outside world expects us to educate a child, and demands that we tell them how ‘clever’ he or she is upon leaving school. If we want to remove one-size-fits all education and testing, then we must provide new measures that the public and industry can understand.

Look at any teacher website, read twitter, go to any education conference, listen in any staffroom and you will hear educators talking about how to help their students learn, and fulfil their potential. We are passionate about children achieving ‘Aha!’ moments, opening their eyes to new experiences, and finding and developing their unique set of talents. We talk about learning, and we love our jobs.

Talk to people outside education and they will talk about teaching children and training children. Behaviour for learning means “shut up, listen, bring your books, do your homework”. They want to know if one child is better than the other, who is succeeding, and who is failing. Finally, when the child leaves school they want to know “how clever is this child?”, “which countries’ students are more intelligent”, and so on.

Let’s face it, even some dinosaurs in education still think this way! No wonder much of the government, and most of the media will jump on test and exam results, and blame teachers for failing. Employers don’t want to have to figure this out themselves, they want us to tell them who to employ, so anything other than a one-size-fits-all testing regime sounds worse than useless.

Bu we know that this is exactly why so many kids don’t like school, why so many kids are fixed in a mindset of failure. We are desperate to move from carrots and sticks and motivate kids through innovation, discovery, and creativeness.

So we’ve got to get clever, and produce a new definition of success. We need to measure such things as how engaged kids are in their education, how interested they are in what they are learning, and how free they are to explore their own questions.

We need to measure each child’s strengths, showcase their expertise and talent, and nurture their entrepreneurial spirit.

Once we’ve done this, we start giving out awards, and really publicising such amazing brave new ideas such as Big Picture Learning. Give every education system in the world a rating for these ideas, and show the strong correlation between these ideas and international success.

Once the public starts latching on to these outcomes, then governments will gradually start dialling down the universal tests, the central control, and will start letting educators do what top managers have realised – let everyone play to their strengths, not mould them to your ideal.

Then, and only then, will we be able to stop swimming against the tide.

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