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A study of the damage being done by the current UK education system to the current generation of UK children.... and why The 21 st Century Learning Initiative.

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Presentation on theme: "A study of the damage being done by the current UK education system to the current generation of UK children.... and why The 21 st Century Learning Initiative."— Presentation transcript:

1 A study of the damage being done by the current UK education system to the current generation of UK children.... and why The 21 st Century Learning Initiative – September 2010

2 The Initiatives Findings The more that is known about the brain and how it grows, and the mind and how it shapes itself, so the relationships between students and teachers change dramatically, as does the relationship between schools, neighbourhoods and the cyber world. As societies become ever more dependent on the intellectual and practical capabilities of people to demonstrate creativity and the mastery of a variety of skills, so the key objective of formal schooling has to be to give every child the confidence and ability to manage their own learning as an ongoing activity. Early years experience (in school and out) matters enormously; so does a generous provision of learning resources. If the youngest child is progressively shown that a lesson about how learning something can also be made into a lesson about how “to learn how to learn”, then as children move into adolescence they become increasingly involved in shaping their own learning. The world is on the brink of radical developments in technologies of information and communication that are so fundamental they hold the power to alter, not only our education system, but also our work and culture. The traditional role of education has, for too long, been predominantly instructional and teacher moderated, but the essence of the integrative universal, multi-media digital network, is discovery – the empowerment of the human mind to learn spontaneously, without coercion, both independently and collaboratively.

3 A Short History of UK Education Roger Ascham, who wrote the first ever book in English on education in 1570, urged the cultivation of what he called “hard- wits”, rather than the superficial quick-wits of those youngsters whose memories were good, but who didn’t bother to work things out for themselves. What he said subsequently caused terrible damage; “In the attainment of wisdom learning from a book, or from a teacher, is 20 times as effective as learning from experience” – bid mistake! Seventy years later John Milton said something very different; “I call therefore a complete and generous education that which befits a man to perform justly, skilfully and magnanimously all the offices both private and public, of peace and war”. Ascham spoke to elitism, while Milton spoke to the common man about personal integrity, self-sufficiency, mentoring and apprenticeship. Victorian entrepreneurs, having learnt to toughen their sinews and make their fortunes in the mines, shipyards, and mills, had no wish for their sons to become apprentices in the same grubby workplaces that had shaped them. It was to provide some kind of “holding” ground between the private tutor and the university, Dr Arnold invented the Public School based on Roger Ascham’s teaching for the classical grammar school and the superiority of the theoretical. England was one of the last of the developed countries to set up a national education system. Until the mid 20 th Century the sons of the rich could pride themselves on not being able to drive a nail in straight, while those with highly technical skills had few opportunities to extend their practical skills with deep theoretical understanding. In 1944, Government thought that those not quite good enough to go to grammar school should receive a technical education, but that the majority needed only an education in “routine” skills. Parliament cut three years off the elementary school curriculum to help create the four year Secondary School much to the detriment of young people’s long term social development. Most recently successive governments have resorted to what is known as Outcome Based Education (OBE) as a means of raising test scores and simplifying the role of the teacher, so diminishing the need for children to learn how to think for themselves in favour of ever larger periods of instruction.

4 Here is the origin of today’s English schooling; age-related classes assumed to be progressing at a uniform rate; skills and knowledge delivered via subject- specific disciplines; a custodial role for social development confused with the degree of willingness with which a child accepts the ethos of the school; more funds allocated for the education of older pupils leaving the younger children to be taught in the largest classes, and the retention of teenagers in school to “save” them from the turmoil of adolescence.

5 Barriers to Implementation The public’s unquestioned acceptance of the Standard Model of Schooling as it has evolved since 1944. By separating primary from secondary schools this has distracted public and politicians alike from considering the overall purposes of schooling while, by down-playing the role of the home. this has so over-extended the role of ‘institutional’ learning that it fails to induct young people into the much less structured and problematic world of adult life.

6 Change needs to comprehend that: The so-called “angst” of the teenage blues is an essential biological adaptation by which the teenage brain forces itself to rebel against simply being told something, and struggles (against parents and teachers) for the space to do things for itself. Adolescence is an opportunity not a problem, Here there is a real disfunctionality between what individuals can do naturally, and the needs of today’s institutional society. This has been given scientific objectivity by the findings of recent research, namely Children’s search for meaning starts very young. It is those children who are already eager to make sense of issues that matter to them in their own private lives, who come to formal schooling anxious to use whatever it can offer them to help their personal objectives, not the other way round. The brain works best when it is building on what it already knows; when it is working in complex, situated circumstances, when it accepts the significance of what it is doing. It is at its best when it is exercised in highly challenging but low-threat environments. Intelligence is more than just a general capacity to learn; it is shrewdness, cleverness and knowledge all rolled together with emotional intuition, balance and a strong sense of practicality. Essentially it is about cognitive and emotional self-regulation, the ability to imply “intelligence” in a self-reflective and meaningful way. Given the inherent limitation of schooling it seems essential for a child to have an intellectual life outside school. Thus equipped, the child is in a position to use schooling as a source of learning opportunities without being drawn into short-cut strategies that work well for handling school-based tasks but often leave nowhere in the life-long development of expertise. Learning is an immensely complex business so, to put faith in a highly directive, prescriptive curriculum, is to so go “against the grain of the brain” that it inhibits creativity and enterprise...the very skills needed in the complex, diverse economy and community for which we need to prepare today’s children.

7 Teaching in “the grain of the brain” will require: Rejoining the practices of primary and secondary education, through the creation of All-Through Schools; Developing a pedagogy on what is now known about how children learn most effectively and take control of their learning; Transforming secondary education so that adolescents become far more involved in their own learning and progression; and Developing a model of teacher education that combines the highest understanding of subject content (the secondary model) with equally demanding knowledge of pedagogy and child development (the primary model). Accepting what Finnish people learned intuitively some fifty years ago that once a system is redesigned in this way it allows Constructivist and enquiry-based practices to develop to such an extent that students’ dependence on teachers and institutions decreases, and the quality of their thinking and performance increases.

8 The Solution The Initiative will create local partnerships able to undertake work at local level and over many years. These communities, by transforming their education systems, will start to restore the sense of civil society in communities across the land which will be so essential for the well-being of children. Home and community as two legs, school being the third, needed to create the balanced “three legged stool” of a new UK education system.


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