Saturday, September 7, 2013

Change comes from the ground up.

How to change education : from the ground up.

Readers of this blog will know that I am a big fan of Ken Robinson. But this time he goes that little bit further, IMHO, and starts to touch on those aspects that we, as teachers, can actually work on to see change - the change that we've all been on about for the past 10 years ... As usual, the Knight says is better than anyone - so listen to this carefully ... and then I share some other thoughts below.

Wow! There is so much in these 24 minutes. What follows are my observations and thoughts - but I'll couch my comments now by saying that this video, plus what I read in the Herald today have given me further insight into my own position on learning and teaching and what should be done. So this particular post will have a couple of sequels ... so apologies if it seems a little disjoint at the moment. 

So - my key take always from this

  • The basics of education are "why we do this", and not any particular group of subjects
  • purpose of education 1: economic - but the economic environment now is vastly different than the one in which current systems of education were set up ... And today we need adaptability and creativity (IBM research). These are 'bottom line' competencies that business want today but they claim that our largely one size fits all system discourages.
  • Purpose of education 2: cultural - in an increasingly global environment, we need to understand other cultures and perspectives well. Value systems are not the same. It's interesting to note that he refers to the Middle East dramas at present. I think you only need consider the changes in the likes of Egypt, Libya and the like over recent years - changes there have not been driven by the leadership in the country - it has been by the people in the street finally saying they've had enough.
  • Purpose of education 3: social - and we need to engage. Our society needs to be 'rediscovered' by every generation - and we can't do this without open debate.
  • Purpose of education 4: personal - education is about the individual. We know individuals are diverse, everyone has different talents, interests etc ... But a key driver in education today is still conformity.

Robinson then makes the point about governments in general ruling from the top down - the command and control position. And I think about our current environment here in NZ (by current I mean over the past 10 - 15 years) where it seems to me that the teacher unions and many of the teaching profession are in conflict with the Ministry of Education and the Minister in particular. "You cannot run a system by alienating the people who do the work."


So, if getting back to basics means getting back to the student/teacher interface, and don't clutter it with other stuff unless it adds to that relationship, then we will have to 'undo' a lot of the "institutionalised" structures we have built. I have maintained for a while that there is far too much 'compliance cost' in education these days - teachers are spending too much time doing everything but teaching - there is a form (or several) for everything. Then of course there is the incredible workload that is the assessment regime.


There are a few other points that Robinson makes in the last 5 minutes of his talk that I think might be in complete contrast with an article I have just read from Professor Elizabeth Rata from Auckland University, so I'll stop for now and revisit this is another post. I have the feeling that, for me anyway, there are a number of issues that are becoming increasingly clear about what we can do and where we should head, and I'm looking forward to trying to put all this together over the coming weeks.





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