Monday, 28 March 2016

The worst education a parent can provide

One way I'm looking at our new landscape of education provision is with this question: Can any normal parent of a five-year old offer a worse education than the one coming up on offer?

The Tory government is continuing their project not only to dismantle the state education system, they're also on a project to support privatised supply of educational materials - particularly materials standardised for nationally regulated and globally marketable tests and exams.

Individual creativity? What? Include here independent thought, critical thinking, the questions that begin with WHY? and the bonkers la-la-la of a child's wonderful reasoning - the sort of la-la-la your five-year old lives with, that starts you in rational pursuit of a penguin and ends the day by pouring custard powder in the bath to find out what happens. (Um, lumpy custard doesn't come with a PISA score.)

Basically, the only place you can pursue creativity of thinking is outside the classroom. You can't follow whimsical, thoughtful, creative, bizarre, wonderful curiosity stuff in school, and certainly not in the new generation of schools.

The schools coming up have economy as their alpha-to-omega driver. To know that, we only have to look at the source of the government's recent announcement - that all schools must become academies - which came not from the Department of Education, but from our Minister of Economics, Chancellor Osborne. It's not an educational underpinning we have here. It's an economic one.

The new schools will be geared into an international education marketplace, with suppliers who need to turn state cash into a profitable return. For their benefit, education needs to be engineered to make money. So we get a new wave of machine-readable tests. It's easier (and cheaper) to print out worksheets for your five-year old on naming parts of grammar. Tell the parents it's all about standards, and Tinkertop will never get a good job unless she knows parts of grammar because that's what five-year old kids learn in China. Co-incidentally, use the ensuring (poor) exam results to put staff on a performance-related pay scale, screw down wages for classroom squaddies, and increase the salary for the effective business leaders of tomorrow! Er, who gives a damn about the education of your five-year old?!

When a parent educates, they take their kids to the garden, the park, the woods; they make cakes, play with custard and cornflour, and get out the paints and playdoh. They meet other like-minded parents in community halls, at museum workshops, down the library, in kiddy art, dance, sports, music and drama groups, and for a tour round town. No-one thinks of providing a test on the naming of parts because it doesn't make up a day of jumping about in the joy of being alive for your average five-year old. For them, an efficient and effective education is the freedom to explore, laugh, learn, love.

Now which education would you call the worse one? *

* Mind you, to get the unworst education, we gave up the second salary, the second car, the automatic dishwasher and the packaged holidays. We never replaced the TV set, we ran a diesel-powered van into the ground, equipped the house via freecycle and we made the charity shop our preferred clothing supplier. And I accept, a lifestyle change might be a step too far.