Asking Big Questions About Education

It’s potentially exciting and positive when people decide to ask and probe the biggest and deepest questions on something as fundamentally important as how a country chooses to educate its children. However, all too often, the excitement and positivity wear thin very quickly as parties settle in to their existing entrenched positions and perspectives. Sadly, too little listening means too little of the potential benefits are achieved.

My thoughts are prompted by an article i saw online a couple of days ago (see link below) that talks of an enquiry being launched in the UK, asking the following three questions;

1. What should be the purpose of education in England?
2. What measures should be used to evaluate the quality of education against this purpose?
3. How well does the current education system perform against these measures?

The instigators are the House of Commons Education Committee. As the article highlights, these types of committee are formed from members across all the political parties – the aim being to hold the government accountable to deliver what the country needs to the highest standards.

The writer of the article, Robin Alexander of the Cambridge Primary Review Trust can be excused for wondering why, after so many years of mass education a question like the first needs to be asked. Tat said, I think it is a question that needs to keep being asked, not necessarily because it hasn’t been asked or answered properly in the past, but more because we need to be cognizant that in a changing world the answer to the question may actually change.

Cambridge Primary Review Trust – Robin Alexander – What’s the Point?
(Click on the link above to read the article)

The writer highlights a very broad and holistic perspective on the purpose of education with which I’m very comfortable. Regrettably, the fact that the second question is there is a clue about how too many politicians in every country cloud the issues. The approach is – if it can’t be measured, it’s not a valid objective. The result is that the answer to question one gets skewed by the need to be able to be affirmative about question 2. In other words, we’ll make as objectives those things which we can measure – and that leads to the focus on things like reading and writing skills, reproducible factual knowledge etc.

An interesting article with some useful links to further material at the end.

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