Tuesday, 10 July 2012

I never was impressed by statistics

Of course I listened to Niall Ferguson's lecture on education.

He lives in a more sheltered world than me, that's for sure. If his chums suffer an attack of the vapours after he expresses an opinion as mild as 'there should be more private schools', then my recommendation is, he should extend his social circle.

That is the problem with the lauded opinion formers. They have limited opportunities for socialisation. Stuck in the same circles, navigating a way between the deferential, the groupies and the awe-struck. They cast about for something mildly provocative to say, something that will cause a bat-up-the-nightdress moment, and they gauge its impact on people who think not much different to themselves. But when it's said, and the kerfuffle died down, then everything proceeds much the same as before. So they did not do much, except make a bit of public noise, create an uncontroversial controversy, and ultimately reestablish business as normal.

Niall should meet a few types out here, in the world of alternative education. Easy to please, easily shocked, apathetic, unopinionated, we aren't. We are the land of the bloody awkward. Let him meet the angry, the educationally outraged, the genuinely disaffected, the rocket-propelled zealots, and the zen-philosophers. When he's had an earful of them, let him meet the paranoids and revolutionaries. Somewhere between are the pragmatic types, and the simple souls who just imagine your schools have already served their purpose, so look online: the future's there, if only you could see it.

We've all educational options in our world. Betcha we'll be influential, too. We have fundamental rethinkings and radical imaginings for education. We put ideas into practice, put our monies where our mouths are, and show you ways forward; better than twiddling and tweaking a structure that's already not working.

Take that as a challenge, you thinkers and doers in my landscape. You have to provide the stale educational world with persuasive alternatives. While they twiddle about with more of this and fewer of that, you have to present imaginative ideas, provocative questions and coherent arguments about the educational routes you're already creating. 

Be careful about what you sell, too. At the moment, what's being sold to the public is a set of scores on an international league table, measuring economic success with corresponding marks in school attainment tests. How those numbers are wrought to alarm us! We're all invited to feel guilty and ashamed that we're routinely outscored: humiliated by Korea and Hong Kong. But isn't it true that alternative forms of education offer different paths from 14 A* GCSE scores or the opportunity to have your commercial productivity tracked by the OECD until the day you drop dead.

Me? I agree with Niall. Especially when he says that if you want to find out about the type of educational success Britain can enjoy if we adopt the Chinese model, then you simply must go and look at it.


Academic Proofreader said...

Interesting piece - I am currently tutoring Chinese students who are studying at a UK university for a Master's programme on English Language teaching and almost every dissertation they are producing laments the 'exam based culture' in China that leads to students learning only what they need to know to pass exams and not much about the real world applications of the knowledge they are 'imbibing'. They come to the UK to learn how to think and how to apply knowledge - that is the appeal of the British education system to International students and maybe Cameron et al. should learn through their eyes to see the positives of the education system as it is now. Although I can see the benefits to 'the system' of producing drones and sponges rather than thinking questioning human beings!

Grit said...

yes, AP, I do not think Gove realises that creativity and independent thinking are strengths that we should seek from an education system. He & Gibb have been blinded by the stars shown him on their tours of China last year. But I do not think they have any indepth awareness of the culture that produced what they saw.