Picture of a sad looking child
Revolution in education has often been a popular topic among celebrity keynote speakers in the conference circuit. What they have to say about the way in which most countries approach the education of their children can be summarised as follows:
- Children are prisoners in educational facilities first designed in the 19th century which has remained largely unchanged for the past 150 years.
- Children are disadvantaged by restrictive curriculums that hinder creativity.
- Children have to unlearn later on in life what they learnt at school.
When you listen to them it’s very hard to disagree with anything they say: all those snappy alliterations timed perfectly to appear alongside eye catching visuals, designed to make you go wow, I wish I thought of that; all those truths we all knew anyway but they managed to deliver in shiny new packaging, with a nice bow and everything; all those clever analogies that simplify their message down to a manageable size so I can understand it…
Clearly these keynote speakers know their stuff and are way cleverer than I am. That’s why they’re out there getting paid to talk the talk and I’m here getting all my books and resources ready for the new academic year.
They have vision, they are corporate consultants who are dabbling in education, they see what is wrong with things and find ways to deliver their findings to the rest of us in a way we can understand: simple analogies, trendy buzzwords, a picture of a sad looking child…
Sometimes, however, I’m left wondering when was the last time these people actually set foot in a classroom? I say this because, although they are undoubtedly intelligent visionaries, they often appear to me lack that most basic of qualities needed to actually effect the change they so long for: being in touch with reality.
In the real world we have to work within infrastructural constraints: I cannot go to my head teacher and say ‘I’ll spend the last two terms teaching my pupils to learn, the Spanish end of year exams are meaningless anyway’; similarly my head teacher cannot go to the education minister and say ‘next year we are devising our own creative curriculum and dumping Maths and Physics’; and, most importantly, the education minister cannot go to the voters and say ‘from now on your children will be sent home to play because they will learn more that way’. Let’s face it, this will remain the case as long as Patsy and Joe down the road have a say on who’s elected minister (no offence intended to Patsy or Joe).
In the real world you have to be able to work with whomever is there, you have to make implementable suggestions that, step by step, can lead to real change. Pleasing crowds does not make change happen, you have to be a people’s person with a clear idea of what has to be done and who, crucially, knows how to get it done by communicating effectively with those with whom you must collaborate. I don’t think the you’ve got it all wrong approach will go down well with my head teacher.
As I say, I don’t doubt the virtues of what they are extolling, I just wish they were better at coming up with practical solutions, instead of pie in the sky revolutionary talk that might bring about change education in the long term (and I’m thinking really, really long term here… another 150 years I reckon) but will do nothing to effect meaningful change in the medium to short term.
This is the reality in which we live. Let’s stick to what we’re good at. We’re good at evolving, not revolting… unless you’re French or Russian, of course.
What do you think?
Picture from Flickr