In a previous post I ranted about change in education. Now I don’t want to give the impression that I’m against change. It’s part of life; without it there can be no progress. If we didn’t have it in education, we would still be teaching classes of 100, with slates and pupil teachers. (I suspect there are some who’d like to see this.) As a wise man once said, “If things don’t change for better or worse, then man we must be dead.”
However, I do think that in education change has been too frequent, too great, poorly planned, poorly thought out and counter productive. (Whatever productivity is in education.) I want to consider how this came about, partly to clarify my own thinking on it.
One of the principle underlying factors is to do with power. As I see it, power is the ability to make change; to be seen as being in power, one has to make change happen. Nowhere is this more obvious than in politics. To be elected, to be in a position of power, a politician has to promise they will change an area; otherwise, the unwritten argument runs, what is the point of electing them? Our political system exists in a continual state of disappointment, of wanting change, often for change’s sake- because, once in office, a politician has to make change to show they are powerful. The five year cycle of government means change has to be rapid.
At a more local level, this happens in the education system itself. Anybody coming into a post of power- heads, deputies, subject leaders and all the rest- has to make change to demonstrate their power. Of course, the wisest only make changes that are sensible, well planned, well thought out and for the benefit of children. Sadly, their hand is often- or perhaps always- forced by pressure from above. And, if politicians have five years, new postholders have much less time.
Perhaps pressure for change in education is greater than in other areas of public life. After all, everybody has been to school. Everybody has an opinion on it. The mainstream media feed the discontent with a succession of negative stories. Additionally, there is such total disagreement about the purpose of education that schools are blown to and fro in the gusty winds of argument and action. (Wow! A metaphor!)
So, change in education is then imposed. The speed, poor planning and poor thinking behind it means that it usually fails. Thus the cycle of discontent continues.
So how can this be fixed? Sorry, I have no quick solutions. For years, I and others have been harrumphing on about stopping the treatment of education as a political football- about taking it out of the hands of the politicians. However, I have no clear idea of how to replace political control. Unless… No, I don’t think teachers alone can or should run education. I do think parents and children should have a part. But- horrifyingly- as I settle into retirement, it has dawned on me that we have got education completely wrong, and perhaps I’ve largely wasted my time. A more positive approach to follow.
Photo: David Wright [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons