Let me conclude.
Britain is floundering for lack of really clear thinking. By default we will end up in the world of the battery hens. Such hens hardly know how to stand on their on feet when their wire cages are removed. Dee Hock is surely right. Those reassuring cages that now support us won’t be around in 20 years time…the survivors will surely be the free-range chickens.
I believe we now have it within our power to create a very different education system – one in which free-range chickens would flourish.
See Graph 4: A Proposed Reording… (Opens in new window)
Look at this new graph.
Assume a constant level of expenditure between the ages of five and 18. Build up a pedagogy geared toward the creation of life long learners, starting at the youngest age. Develop forms of teaching that constantly encourage children to become “reflective learners” – in reality the full application of all that we now know about meta-cognition.
Plan for the Weaning principle from the start. That is, give children so many usable skills when they are very young that, progressively, they only need “teaching” for those skills they have not yet acquired. Move away from the assumption that every lesson has to be taught. Stop assuming that it’s only teachers who can teach; get older learners to be teachers themselves.
Provide 10% of the school budget for the continuous professional development of all teachers.
Create class sizes of 10 or 12 for children of five, and classes two or three times that size but taught for only half the time for 17 and 18 year olds. Recruit the community to provide a range of mentoring and support facilities. Expect at least a doubling in value-added from this strategy, if not a three or four-fold increase. Stop people from any longer thinking that the school can do everything.
Take information technology seriously. Don’t try to be too sophisticated. Concentrate on word-processing for everyone in every subject. Ensure that every piece of writing, be it in chemistry, history or geography, becomes a lesson in applied communication skills; literacy should be cross-curricular without weakening the precious significance of individual disciplines.
All the time remember that the world of the 21st Century will be about continuously managing your own lifelong learning. By 18 every young person needs to be already doing this.
“Do you realize,” gasped a Canadian when I unpacked this argument recently in Toronto, “that if this happened then it would be the children who would tired at the end of term, not the teacher!”
See Graph 5: Proposed Reording (II) (Opens in new window)
Now combine that graph of the weaning principle and place it on my hypothetical model for a new distribution of resources.
Note how the graph for Weaning now runs in sympathy with class size. Note how the resources for ICT and involvement of the community increase with the child’s increasing need to be autonomous.
There are two areas from these graphs not yet covered by what I have said. That relating to the under-fives, and that involving Tertiary education.
If full and proper provision is not made for children and their families below the age of five, then society has largely missed out on the richest period of children’s predispositions to learn. At the Tertiary level the significance of the graph reflecting the weaning process, when projected further within the context of life-long learning, could change dramatically the conventional pattern of higher education.
There was an audible gasp as I made this last point to a group of eminent international educationalists at the recent meeting of the State of the World Forum convened by Gorbachev. “That’s truly radical,” said one, searching for words and scratching his head at the same time, “but, there again, it’s just applied common sense isn’t it?”
“You are probably intellectually right, you’re probably even morally right,” said a high official in the American Department of Education, “but politics just won’t let this happen.” There is too much institutional inertia locked up in all of this.
“That is simply not a good enough excuse any more,” said another. “We no longer have any intellectual excuse for not reversing an upside down and inside out system of education. What is questionable however is whether we have the guts to do what now needs to be done.”
In summary, ladies and gentlemen, that is the argument you will find explained more fully in the Policy Paper. Do you still believe we can get to the Promised Land by way of Southampton’s old Grand Ocean Terminal, or will you join me at Heathrow’s Terminal Four stopping first at the bookshop to pick up that essential reading!
I do so very much hope that you will.