January, and those of us with teenage children know that we’re already into exam season. In fact, exam season seems to be perpetual these days. But, from next year, January and February will be a little quieter for the examining bodies, when the opportunity for 17 and 18 year olds to retake A Level modules will no longer exist. Yes, it’s all change again for UK education.
At Conscious Communications we’re privileged to work with one of the best private schools in the country and through our work have developed an understanding of the issues and politics involved in the national education agenda. We have also been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to discuss pressing education issues with teachers, academics and business leaders, most recently in a series of podcasts with education thought leaders as a preview to a national education conference we are organising in Cambridge next month.
Teachers are not at all shy of voicing their opinions and indeed, they are some of the most prolific Tweeters, using the social media platform to stage lively discussions and debates at all times of day and night. There are even several public Twitter forums which take place each week at set times, where teachers and educationalists get together, using hash tags such as #sltchat or #ukedchat, to discuss pre-agreed themes and questions, often resulting in heated voicing of opinions.
The major issues currently are those relating to the review of the National Curriculum and the government’s consultation on the future for assessment in the UK. Teachers, seemingly universally, believe that the current system is letting children and schools down. They are brimming with ideas for how an effective system could and should be structured and yet their frustration that the educated and informed opinions of teachers are going unheeded by the decision makers, are widely voiced.
Something that appears to have been missed by the decision makers in their reform of the system is exploration of the fundamental question of what is the purpose of education and learning for today and tomorrow. Not, what has the purpose of education been in the past – it is surely ridiculous that in the fast moving, digital and increasingly ‘global’ world and workplace, there is talk of a return to basics.
Ask teachers what the purpose of learning is and, we believe, you’ll receive a range of responses which mostly focus on giving students critical and inquisitive thinking skills and equipping them to achieve ‘fulfilling’ and socially aware futures. Many teachers we have spoken to talk about the IB learner profile and its relevance for young people entering the adult world today. IB says that its programme is designed to ‘develop internationally minded people who, recognising their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet, help to create a better and more peaceful world’. The words IB uses to describe the type of qualities they work to instil in students are: ‘inquirers’, ‘knowledgeable’, ‘thinkers’, ‘communicators’, ‘principled’, ‘open-minded’, ‘caring’, ‘risk-takers’, ‘balanced’, ‘reflective’. Sounds about right for the world they will face!