Children Who Fly Below the School Radar

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Six years ago, when I was based in the UAE,  I was invited to share my thoughts on key educational issues through a series of seven articles that I wrote. I recently read back through those articles and was especially worried to find them still so relevant today, the issues raised still largely unaddressed. When it comes to reforming and changing education there has to be atime when we stop debating what needs to change and get on and make it happen. To do that, we have to sometimes ask some tough and uncomfortable questions about who benefits from maintenance of the status quo and what needs to happen to break down those entrenched positions.

Here, below is the first of those articles that dealt with education’s obsessive interest with the ‘outliers’ and non-conforming students (under and over-achievers) that meant that little was happening to ensure that the children in the middle get a fair and reasonable, personalised learning experience.

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(Click on the two links above to open the two paged article in pdf form. it should open as a separate tab or page in your browser)

Changing Attitudes to Early Years Education

I wrote less than two weeks ago about the influence of Malcolm Gladwell’s book, ‘The Outliers’ and how it was influencing the choices parents were making when it came to their children’s education.

Here’s another article that reinforces this impact, this time showing how increasing numbers of US parents are deliberately choosing to put their child in to school late, so as to avoid being the youngest/ smallest in the class.

New York Times Redshirt article

Whilst my sympathy lies wholeheartedly with the parents who are choosing to ‘redshirt’ their child I am concerned that the current scenario doesn’t remove ‘victims’ or those disadvantaged from the system – it just changes which child in the class gets disadvantaged. Also, much of the motivation appears to be a drive for competitive advantage in standardised state education tests that are required almost annually in the US education system.

My feeling is that there’s enough evidence from places like Finland that there is big advantage in having all the children start school later rather than earlier. Then, I believe that differentiation of the learning experience by teachers, accompanied by careful analysis of the strengths, development needs and character of each child offer the best opportunity to ensure each child fulfils their learning potential in the classroom. This also needs to be accompanied by healthy, disciplined and supportive classroom environments with high expectations of each child, clearly articulated and monitored and learning treated as a cooperative endeavour.

The Impact of ‘Outliers’

The pendulum has swung all the way from, “My child’s a prodigy, move him/ her up two classes” to the reverse.

Wall Street Journal article

I can’t help thinking that the evidence presented by Malcolm Gladwell in his book, Outliers, has played a part in reshaping thinking in the US and suspect it will here as well. All I ask is that I never have to listen again to a parent playing roulette with their child’s future as they seek the social power lift that comes from an offspring’s ‘double promotion’!!

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