The recent Government White Paper (see illustration above) on the ‘Importance of teaching‘, highlights a number of countries leading the world in educational performance. What it doesn’t mention though is that these countries are those investing in innovative approaches to teaching and learning, assessment and resources. And sadly neither does the White Paper discuss the importance of the creative industries to the British economy, or indeed make any reference at to Art & Design, Design and Technology or ICT.
The White Paper identifies a number of key targets:
• World class system – improve UKs ranking in PISA Tables (Programme for International Student Assessment)
• Autonomy – devolve power to the front line
• Behaviour – improve authority and status of teachers
• Accountability – streamline school accountability system to focus on teaching and learning
• Equality of opportunity – close gap between educational under performance of rich and poor.
Now you and I would probably see these targets as excellent opportunities to:
• improve the UK’s world ranking by adopting some of the leading innovations in teaching, learning and assessment being pioneered by countries such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia
• as they become increasingly empowered, support teachers to develop their own curricula and appropriate teaching methods
• improve classroom behaviour by adopting a more personalised, child-centred approach that motivates students
• enable teachers to develop more holistic approaches to validate agreed notions of good practice in teaching and learning
• improve equality of opportunity by enhancing the provision and acceptance of non academic-biased courses that will be seen as more relevant to the world of work and employment.
But somehow I think Mr Gove may see the opportunities in a rather different way…
• improve the UK’s world ranking by concentrating on a knowledge-based approach to English, maths and science using tried and tested formal examination procedures
• give teachers in other subjects more control of curriculum content, knowing that they will probably continue to deliver the national curriculum, because that’s all they know how to do
• improve classroom behaviour by employing more retired army officers
• give teachers a clearer idea of what is considered the basics of good traditional teaching and devise a simple checklist for senior managers to use in assessing their performance
• ensure all pupils, including the poor, have equal opportunity to study academic subjects taught with an emphasis on the acquisition of facts.
I think it unlikely that Mr Gove attended the recent WISE (World Innovation Summit for Education) conference in Qatar in which ‘1,200 international education leaders assessed the innovation opportunities presented for and by education, and explored how best to ensure a positive environment for innovation in all its forms to flourish’.
However, it is true to say that innovation in any field involves investment and risk, and right now the UK is broke. There is no UK funding for research and development of educational initiatives. Is Gove’s ‘back to the 1950s‘ message really saying, we can’t afford to move forwards, so let’s go backwards to simpler, less costly times where formal examination essays were cheap to set and mark?
With thanks to Tony Wheeler for his analysis of the White Paper