As we hover near the precipice of recession keen2learn believes education be ring fenced from further cutbacks. Looking to the future children currently in school will be required to generate future prosperity and ultimately lead the country. On this basis we should be increasing the investment in education to groom those whose vital role will be to outperform their predecessors.
Not an easy situation to manage. Billions of pounds have been invested over the past decade to achieve this Utopian state. “Education, education, education” has been the mantra echoed by the many political leaders who rummaged through our educational portals yet achieved nothing. Investing in add-hoc schemes that ultimately became disruptive damp squids the waste of funds and impact on our teaching resources has been phenomenal. Comparing 2011 with 1987 science, technology and medicine have witnessed huge advances whilst education has struggled. The ability of teachers to teach and children to learn have maintained a disrupted approach to achievement. The countless initiatives have been launched with tumultuous fanfare to resolve an issue in maths, literacy or science that have quietly slipped, unloved and unmissed beneath the waves. Disastrously they each managed to leave a scar. Cohorts of children have been taken along paths, viewed by teachers as a waste of time and effort, from which they may struggle to recover.
And so our overall ranking in the world OECD educational league has slipped badly. We now languish in the mid 20’s position when we used to be in the top 10. Countries in the Far East having become the global manufacturing and commercial hub are not unsurprisingly supported by children enjoying a far better ( although not perfect) standard of education. But why is that despite the ongoing development of society and the changing demands of commerce and industry we predominantly struggle to move the barriers forward. Our pedestrian approach maybe directly linked to the ponderous approach of national control. Would a fully independent schooling system influenced by the need to make a commercial profit directly supported by results provide the approach needed. The concept works with current independent schools, ignoring their financial constraints precipitated by the current climate, why cannot this be rolled out? Could Michale Gove’s Free School approach be taken to it ultimate conclusion. The waste of government spending being transformed into value for money.
Clearly this would remove the need for the department of educational and its myriad of support outposts. More essentially it would transfer the scope and control of education that would have to match the demands of the modern world. It would remove the inflexibility of national curriculum, the unhealthy concentration on exam results and league tables. It avoid the intervention of countless “temporary” Secretaries of state for Education who have a dabble to try and make their name, then move on having collectively, archived nothing.
Technology could surely play a significant role in the teaching resources of the future although this needs careful handling. The charge into interactive whiteboards over the past 10 years has resulted in investment programmes that never achieved their objective. Due to technical issues or inexperience by the user a huge majority of whiteboards ended up with the power switched off . Used as white blackboards that boosted the sales of dry wipe markers rather than achieve the interactive content. Indeed even when a success story emerged and the whiteboard was used efficiently, some teachers noticed whenever a child was asked to contribute the concentration of the rest of the class switched off until it was their turn.
Careful analysis is required before the technology path is pursued. And this involves the use of laptops, netbooks and tablets. A brave school, Mounts Bay Academy in Penzance is investing £300k to provide iPads for each of its 900 students. A key element of the plan is to reduce costs of textbooks and improve the pupils learning potential. Although Apple, who are supporting the programme and the teaching staff at the school believe it has potential this is early adopter territory. It will take a few years to to prove the efficacy of the project and allow teachers to adopt a teaching style tuned to tablets. We need to avoid another whiteboard “white elephant” and see if the tablets are robust enough, have the desired battery life, effectively support lesson plans and do not present the pupils as a target for muggers.