Te tīmatanga
o te mātauranga ko te wahangū

Te wāhanga
tuarua ko te whakarongo.

The first
stage of learning is silence

The second
stage is listening

Education is on the cusp of very significant
change – no surprise at a time when society, capitalism, western democracy is
in a state of flux, a period of the most rapid social and technological change
ever, of increasing environmental concerns about sustainability and climate change,
of biological and genetic engineering and increasing social inequality. Stephen Hawking wrote of the inevitability of
self-designing beings, a bio-hacked super race that will transcend our
biological bodies – Yuri Noah Harari’s ‘Homo Deus’ – and already
we can see the impact of the application of technology in the field of
medicine: pacemakers, artificial hips and knees, 3D body parts, the artificial
pancreas, use of implants to administer electric pulses and drugs, robotics,
data mining and medical imaging, and yesterday the world’s first genetically
edited baby. Everywhere, technology is driving change at a pace that is not
allowing time for the ethical decisions that should accompany it. We watch on
in wonder, unsure how to make sense of all the new knowledge and uncertain of
how we can prepare for what is to come and prevaricate – and nowhere is this
more evident than in our schools.

The
fact that we have had the same model of education for over a century isn’t in
itself the need to change – change for change’s sake is never a good idea – but
society is facing challenges that make us question the traditional school model
as old jobs disappear and new ones emerge with quite different skill sets, as
old values are undermined by expediency and greed as the social and economic
divide widens. Education
should not be complicated, but like an old anchor it is covered in barnacles
which are not easily prised away.

Our response must be through education,
always, but education with a different premise, not predicated on a business
model, but based on a human model values and societal need.

At the end of World War Two, the sum of human
knowledge was doubling every 25 years; now it is every twelve months and soon
to be every 12 hours so it is pertinent to ask and keep asking if we are teaching the right
knowledge? I remember finding an old exercise book of my father from the early
forties and seeing a lesson on ox-bow lakes and realising I was taught the same
lesson, more or less and then taught the same lesson myself. Nothing against
ox-bow lakes but we increasingly have to decide what we should teach especially
when knowledge is only a google search away.

At the same time, the role of schools has
shifted from imparting knowledge to taking on board the societal responsibilities
to provide social, emotional, pastoral and psychological care of children. Schools
are now charged with educating children – young children – about sex, gender,
modern slavery, terrorism, even as recently
suggested, teaching young children to recognise the symptoms of cancer –
subjects that were once the prerogative of parents and to be raised when they
felt appropriate according to the emotional readiness of their child – and we
wonder why we have created a generation more anxious, more worried than any
generation before.

As changes wrought through technology
continue to threaten great swathes of employment by requiring quite a different
skill set from that predicated on academic achievement, we have to return to
the question, what is education for?

The challenge facing education is that it is
trapped in its own paradigm. Fuelled by binary debates about how we measure
progress, about formative versus summative assessment, a knowledge rich curriculum
versus a skills based curriculum and so on fed by an avaricious and
self-serving education industry. There are literally thousands of education
publications and educational consultancies, all with their own target markets,
advising parents and schools, feeding into more than 400 education conferences
held each year, funded by advertisers of everything from textbooks to laptops.
It is a huge business dominated by vested interests –one of our examination
boards Edexcel – is owned by the education publishers, Pearsons who publish a vast array of revision
textbooks to supplement their courses – and usually dominated by funding issues
and money. Change to curricula happens, albeit slowly, because, as teachers
know, the cost of even changing one topic to another in one GCSE course depends
on being able to resource it. But that
should not be the impediment to answering the pressing question, ‘what is
the best education we can give to our children?’

But in asking why we need to change, there
are more fundamental reasons for a new paradigm. The crisis in society is not
just because of the forces of change and technology, new knowledge and a
changing job market, but something far deeper.

Helen Clark, the former New Zealand Prime
Minister who led the United Nations Development Programme from
2009 to 2017 recently wrote “In
designing a curriculum, start with human
values + a common moral code. Stress the importance of ethics, empathy +
dangers of self-interest. If we look at what’s wrong with our society, it’s in
our failure to replace traditional codes of family /church with anything
meaningful.”

When we look at changing our education
system, we assume we start by changing the pedagogy, the curriculum, the school
type, by tweaking the data we use and how we measure outcomes. But this is not
where we should begin. Schools are a reflection of our values, our aspirations,
our communities, our society. If we
don’t get the premise right, if we don’t have the right moral principles and
know why we are doing something we will be hi-jacked – as has been our
education system – or caught in some bureaucratic inertia.

So what do we do – how do we change our traditional school system from a pyramid predicated on
university where those that fall by the wayside aren’t even mentioned. On the
day that the 1.5 million students who sat A Level had their achievements
splashed all over the media, where were the unheralded 3.8 million who did
vocational courses or others who just survived through school, unrecognised and
unrewarded, because the system did not measure their intelligence or talents? How
do we get away from our focus on content that is dictating the pedagogy. As exam
pressure mounts we see more tutorial centres being established creating what
has been labeled a ‘shadow education’ that is one operating outside of schools. We already have a huge tutoring
industry with an estimated 24pc of
pupils in England have used a tutor over the past year, with that figure rising
to 40pc in London. The market is worth £6.5bn in the UK with 2.8 million pupils
being tutored at any one time. ‘And parents are going
for it.’
Add to that an increase in home educated pupils up 27 per cent this past year, with many more likely to
be “hidden from sight” and the drift
towards what we call surface rather than embedded learning and we can start to see
what a crisis looks like. It’s
a system that teaches us more about memorising than learning, more about status
than impact, an industrialised system of education adhering to a taxonomy of
subjects designed for a 20th century job market with only a trickle
going to university. A system in which 20% of our students leave school
functionally illiterate & innumerate and 64% of teachers last less than
five years before quitting their jobs. This is what a crisis looks like. It is
a system that was criticised by one of my past students who left her senior
school with outstanding grades, but felt that school’s focus on examinations
and ‘. . . on memorization, ticking boxes and ironing out children’s
idiosyncracies’
had left her deeply frustrated and concerned.

As we keep turning the screw there are other
unexpected costs for which our education system must take some blame. We are in
the midst of a mental health epidemic in all its manifestations of self-harming,
of depression, of eating disorders and isolation often bound up with the unhealthy
focus on self-esteem rather than self-worth. It is a war zone with the mobile
phone on the front line. Meanwhile the constraints of the Ebacc on creative
subjects and pressures resulting from a slimmed down curriculum are ‘fast turning the UK into the most philistine
nation in Europe’
. Since
2010 entries in Design and Technology have fallen by 154,000 (57%), whilst
entries in Creative Subjects have fallen by over 77,000 (20%) with 2,600 fewer drama teachers
& 2,100 fewer art & design teachers since 2010 – and this, at the very
time we need creative people in our workforce. The same with the numbers
learning European languages that have plummeted. Mary Myatt warns us that we
will ‘deprive our young people of
intellectual, artistic and physical nourishment’
if we don’t get our
curriculum principles and planning right.

Why has this happened? In the first decade of
the 21st century, we doubled expenditure on education from 40 billion to 80 billion
& there were no tangible improvements.

Since then, we flat-lined. Why? Because we
didn’t have our priorities right. What we have is a school system based on
exams whose purpose is put them in rank order for their various institutions,
courses, careers. How sure are we that pushing all children through a system
predicated on exams is what we should be doing? Increasingly many are not. About
half of university admissions officers say they do not believe that students
arrive “sufficiently prepared” for higher education, that they lack independent
learning skills, are ‘unable to remember
facts
’ and have ‘a ‘Google-it’
mentality’
unable to even manage their own time or workloads.

Employers are saying much the same. That while
exams may suit a cohort of well-taught, compliant, children, intelligence and
employability are something else. Recent research from Google – a company which
initially hired only brilliant computer scientists – revealed in January this
year, the seven top characteristics of its most successful employees were soft
skills: coaching, listening well, making connections with others to solve
complex problems. Raw STEM ability (Science, Technology, Engineering and
Mathematics) came last. Only two weeks ago, the Headmaster of Stowe School, Dr Anthony
Wallersteiner wrote

“We’re
working with an exam system that is not much changed from Edwardian times. The
truth is, making students sit alone at their desks does little to prepare them
for a world where they will be working digitally, flexibly and collaboratively.
Tomorrow’s school leavers and graduates will require a range of skills, not
just scores: over their careers, they are likely to have an average of 17 jobs
in five different fields of employment. Core skills like mathematics, writing
and science will remain key but modern employers demand new ones like
collaboration, coding, digital literacy, fluency in languages, critical
thinking, creativity and entrepreneurial skills. The most successful schools of
the future will regard preparation for work as more important than preparing
pupils for A-Levels and that ‘schools need to address the needs of the
so-called
“phigital” generation who see no distinction between
physical and online worlds and will enter a rapidly changing, largely digital
workplace.’

He finished with a word of warning for
schools that they could find themselves cut out of the education process
altogether by impatient employers offering their own online courses. All of
which is almost clichéd so often do we hear it, but that doesn’t make it less
true. As Anthony Seldon noted ‘To
prosper in the new age future, our children must not behave like robots. They
must not learn like robots. Not work like robots. The real robots will do all
that.’
Yet my contention is that in designing a new
paradigm of education we need to focus first and foremost, not in making good
employees, but in making good citizens.

A new paradigm for education has to tackle
the contentious subject of measurement that dominates our schools and strangles
our teaching and learning and muffles our students. Another former pupil wrote
of her time at her senior school ‘I
have vivid memories of beginning secondary school; I was shocked at how my new
peers did not seem to have the same independence as me, both inside and outside
the classroom. Not only did I ask more questions than them, but if I were to
respond to a teacher’s
request or statement asking “why?” I was perceived to
be both troublesome and a disturbance to the class.’

We have to see education as something other
than just loading and measuring, especially given the narrowness of what we are
measuring – in other words, we need to redefine what
success looks like. Wellington College attempted to broaden its teaching by focusing
on the eight intelligences: personal and social, creative and physical, moral and
spiritual, logical and linguistic. The irony, however, is that schools merely
pay lip service to the first six and only concentrate on the last two which are
the two most easily replicated by machines as algorithms and artificial
intelligence are outperforming human beings on most aspects of logical and
linguistic intelligence. (So) the very skills around which we have designed our
schools and our exam system are the very ones that will be rendered redundant
within the next twenty years. We need to find different ways of measuring
children, those that have a gift in one subject, but are failed by their
singularity of purpose, those who don’t
respond to our traditional ways of measurement, those whose time has not yet
come, but need the chance. It was that well-known dyslexic, Albert
Einstein who made the point when he wrote

‘Everybody
is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will
live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Meanwhile, schools are struggling to make
sense of it all. Gordonstoun has just released a report commissioned by
Edinburgh University on ‘Out of classroom learning experiences’ OOCLEs that
extols the benefits for education in the round and of the whole child. Other
schools are extending their own offerings although they are inevitably drawn
back into the bottleneck that are national qualifications. Until we change the
way we measure children – a truly horrible phrase– we will continue to ignore
their talents and compromise their futures.

Just as the digital revolution with its fusion
of technologies is rapidly changing our world, it will also inevitably change
our schools. Recently, the Chief economist of the Bank of
England warned that we will need a skills revolution to avoid ‘large swathes’
of people becoming technologically unemployed’ as AI makes jobs obsolete and
create widespread hollowing out of the job market, rising inequality, social
tension and many people struggling to make a living. But that is all dealing in
the here and now, within the current paradigm.

Which is why we need a new paradigm. It’s not
just because what we have may not be fit for purpose or because technology is
changing us or because our curriculum is redundant, all of which may be true,
but because the premise is rotten.

Recently a story was doing the rounds on
social media of three men who left a restaurant without paying. A few days
later the restaurant owners received a letter containing the money due and a
little extra with an explanation that they had left to find an ATM machine and
then realised the last train was about to leave so were unable to do so.

What is remarkable about this story is that
it is ‘remarkable,’ as if such behaviours, such actions, don’t fit with what we
now perceive to be normal. As such it highlights the place where society is,
that when ethical behaviour occurs, it is seen as extraordinary.

When looking at writing a new framework for
education, it is evident that this is the right place to start, not with
content, nor skills, but with values and behaviours. After all,

the absence of any ethical framework, and the
dearth of societal values, is evident in every walk of life. We can pick any
profession: law, accountancy, the pharmaceutical industry, industrial farming,
property development, sport, the Church – the list is almost as long as is the
list of jobs. Stripped down, we don’t take long to find examples of worker
exploitation, cost fixing, drug taking, sexual abuse or putting profit above
people by ‘using’ tax loopholes. There is no moral imperative at work. We saw
it when the boil was exposed (if not properly lanced), with the behaviour of
politicians, bankers, fund managers and venture capitalists, whose criminal
actions and self-interest were exposed through the expenses scandal and the
banking crisis. The fact that so few were held to account merely reinforces the
impression that we are living in an ethical wild west, a view that hasn’t
changed since. Recently, the founder of the parent company of Cambridge
Analytica, Nigel Oakes called for more regulation admitting that he operated
for years ‘without much of an ethical
radar’
, before going on to defend his decision by saying ‘It’s above my pay scale to decide the ethics
of this.’
Not so. Ethics are beyond the contents of the purse and
should apply to all of us at every level of society.

But the fault-lines go much deeper than this.
The behaviour of the big four accountancy firms who earlier this year were
accused by MPs of “feasting on what was
soon to become a carcass”
as it emerged they banked £72m for work
linked to collapsed government contractor Carillion in
the years leading up to its financial
failure highlight the rotten underbelly in which everything was alright as long as it
turned a profit. One time-tested way of doing so is to strip and ravage the
environment and natural resources, preferably off-shore, by over-fishing, by
the ruthless destruction of forests for palm oil to shore up UK pension funds,
by dumping waste, the proliferation of off-shore tax havens, car manufacturers
ignoring safety concerns to boost profit; over charging and failing to honour
commitments by tradesmen, by professionals rounding up their hours; misusing
expense accounts; misleading advertising; child labour; zero hours contracts;
mis-selling; unpaid internships, currency fraud; tax optimisation and so on. ”
It is frightening that 25% of UK employees still perceive corruption to be
widespread in their businesses and 42% believe their senior management would
act unethically to help a business survive.

When Artemis, (self-titled as The Profit
Hunters) boasted that their ‘global hunters’ spend their lives carving through
the atlas for opportunities for profit, we need to understand that such
companies are the product of our economic model and that any subsidiary
interests or concerns, environmental or moral, are subsumed by the goal to
maximize profits.

Self-interest rules and it can come as no
surprise then if you ask children what they want to be when they grow up that
the most popular answer is rich and famous for that is the model they see every
day. Is this what we want our children
to aspire to? And where are ethics in all of this? Worse, where is it leading us as a society?

We need, somehow, to move the Titanic. The
obsession of governments with GDP – gross domestic product – as a measure of
economic activity is deeply flawed as is well-known, measuring both good and
bad economic activity, from farming to drug dealing and gun running, but taking
no account of voluntary work or raising a family, implicitly favouring built in
obsolescence and having no truck with such green-tinged schemes as recycling.
Having a philosophy that relies on endless growth with no ethical boundaries
continues to undo us unless we can educate the next generation about
sustainability and the ethical use of our planet and looking after each other. Simon
Kuznets, Nobel Prize winner who developed the measure before the war, had quite
different aspirations, intending GDP to measure economic welfare and
well-being, (but being ignored in the post-war US-UK plans), mitigating against
the unequal distribution of gains and ensuring we were not growing at the
expense of our environment. We know from the role models all around us that if
we are not on our guard we will be scammed, ripped off, tricked into signing up
for deals we don’t want, confronted by insurance scams, by subtle changes to
bank rates, pension providers, by cold calling, unethical behaviour by fuel
companies, car dealers, by mobile phone companies, by small print, by the very
people we should be able to trust – professional people, our leaders of industry, bankers
and politicians.

With the spread of fake news, nanotechnology
and artificial intelligence, ethics takes on more importance than ever before.

The need to be able to make decisions that
are not based on economic or personal self-interest is compelling. Waste, such
as the amount of foodstuffs thrown out by supermarkets (over 200 000 tonnes
each year) is simply unacceptable on a planet with so much poverty. Recently,
the big food chains have made an effort to reduce waste, increase donations of
food to food-banks and cooperatives by building up partnerships with local
charities, but it is the tip of an iceberg that is founded on waste and
obsolescence. Nor should we excuse
the fashion label, Burberry who destroyed more than £28m worth of its fashion
and cosmetic products over the past year to guard against counterfeiting or mail
order companies that put returns into landfills. No waste is acceptable and
even planned obsolescence, deemed good for economic activity, is short-sighted
and harmful. We simply cannot afford to treat our planet and our society in
this way any longer or allow government, acting in our name, to behave
unethically (selling our waste to Thailand, investing in dodgy environmental
areas, and selling arms to countries who ignore human rights. Which is why I am
a trustee of the charity Operation Future Hope which looks to
address such crucial issues as conservation, sustainability and the regenerative
environment through education. And throughout, we need to keep asking the question:
what are our ethics and are we, and those who represent us, acting in accordance
with them?

Nor is education ‘clean.’ We have schools
gaming the system by using different exam providers; or indulging in sharp
practice in school recruitment through inducements and undercutting other
schools; or setting up campuses abroad to bring money back to the UK; or
stopping students moving into the 6th form or from sitting exams for fear that
they will negatively affect league tables (more than 20% of teachers were aware
of ‘off-rolling’ in schools they had taught in) – all common practice and all
unethical. Plagiarism is at a level where schools now feel compelled to
purchase software to identify it; while cheating, by students and teachers, has
risen fuelled by the drip-down pressure of league tables. Essay mills, a
business reputed to earn billions of pounds worldwide has resulted in some
50,000 students being caught cheating in the last three years alone. The recent
de-valuing of academic entry to university even raises the question as to
whether it is be ‘ethical’ to encourage students to pursue a university course
simply because with lowered conditional offers, they will get in, in part due
to the due to the rapacity of
universities fighting for survival (and who themselves are acting
unethically?) When are schools charities
and when are they businesses? How many schools see overseas students as ‘cash
cows?’ How ethical is selective
schooling knowing that it produces winners
and losers with all the consequent baggage? It should concern us, all of it. For when
schools lose their moral compass and their understanding of what they are here
for, then we are in a moral mire.

Then those things that affect the individual: selfies and the
narcissism and insecurity they engender,
the epidemic of loneliness amongst the young, the closing down of
communities, the loss of collegiality, a society that prizes acquisition above
welfare. And on this frontline we have the mobile phone that is dominating our
time and attention like no other single device in history as we check our phones every 12 minutes
on average and spending between two to three hours connected each day. What is that doing to us and how do we
manage it? And in the debate between self-esteem and
self-respect, between self awareness and empathy, between self and community
too often the emphasis is on looking after yourself and taking what you can,
with self-interest and avarice its drivers. A wee bit colourful? Perhaps. But if we are to change society, and
to equip the next generation to make the ethical decisions that will be
required of them to manage technology, to look after the environment and to
counter the atomisation of society through social media, we need to act. And
where better than at the very start of our education system?

So how to change? How do we try to instil the
importance of making good ethical decisions from a young age. How do we make
children think of themselves as part of a whole? How do we embed kindness and
empathy, appropriate behaviours, manners and attitudes conducive to making good
citizens?

How do we move away from measurement to the
immeasurable? How do we move from
values into ethics, that is moral principles that govern our behaviour, that
demand we make judgments about good and
bad, that we see our values in the effect that have on others, on our
environment and on our communities?

This isn’t an issue solely for schools, but for all of us.
Children need role models and particularly parental guidance as they mimic the
example, language, values and behaviours of their parents (think using
mobiles). As adults, we need to be more environmentally conscious, more ethical
in how we act , more charitable and more community minded – we know that.
Schools, likewise should not just talk their values, but walk them in their
corridors, in their classrooms and on their playing fields. The answers lie in
early education and developing the right attitudes to learning, about
identifying children with their larger community and by encouraging them to
look outwards, not inwards, to understand and look after their classmates,
their community and their environment and all who inhabit it. The value
of service to fulfilled lives. And this generation are up for it. They want
change and they are right to question those who tell them otherwise. That’s why
we go back to the why question. Why
do we teach what we do? This week
Stephen Tierney argued that the debate over the “real substance of education” was not
about having a broad and balanced curriculum or having a well-conceived set of
standardised and externally assessed examinations but “a life well lived.” He’s right of course, but I fear it is a
little harder for Ofsted to measure.

There are a few green shoots: the announcement of the head of
Ofsted to downplay academic grades in favour of character development; the announcement by the Singapore government
that from next year, exams for primary years up to age 8 years will be
abolished in a series of changes aimed at discouraging comparisons between
student performance.

+ So what will
this new paradigm look like? How do we
engender third world attitudes into first world countries.

How do we grow an education system predicated
on citizenship and values rather than one driven by measurement or GDP or
academic qualifications that apply to the few. How can we get cross-party
consensus to give education more autonomy from political interference? How can
we get governments and communities to prioritise education? How do we convince
the many vested interests involved in education that change is necessary? And
how do we ensure we are giving children
what is required to develop and live fulfilled lives in the future?

All big questions and I suggest it is by returning to
the question I asked at the start, the one I always ask: ‘What is the best
education we can give to our children?’
and then work out we go about it?
Which is at the heart of the new paradigm.

In writing a curriculum for the first years of
school, I started with four key
attitudes: first, the idea of being part of a group of moving the me out of the
middle of the circle and establishing the sense of belonging is so important,
by extlooing mutual benefit, of service and charity, of thoughtfulness and
kindness; second, of learning to have a respect for the environment and the
world we live in sustainability, climate
change, conservation ; third, of understanding the joy of learning, of being
creative and the desire for knowledge and understanding being something they
want to do rather than have to do so they grow up accepting that education is
both a privilege and a joy, but also a constant in their lives, noting also the
advice of Dr Tomas Ellegard that ‘there
is a lot of research
that suggests if you want a more academic
child, start academia later”

And last, the right
attitudes to self – health, well-being,
fitness, growing self-respect through words and actions, developing the
creativity and sense of purpose to do things for a purpose.

We already know that schools take on many different
roles and functions for their communities. Inevitably, as Simon Noakes observed, ‘’Schools will evolve into social spaces for
human interaction
” –not defined by walls and buildings where education will
be delivered in communities by a wide variety of providers. Hence, while many
parents might see the first function of school to get their children out of the
house and with their peers for an extended part of each day – and that is
important, schools will take on an ever wider brief, where pastoral and social
care, health and well-being are minded; and where through a marriage of the
curricular and co-curricular, of vocational and incidental education, schools
will become more relevant to the society they serve. More and more,
education provision will be accessed from homes as well as schools, from
tutorial centres and universities. At the same time, the new players: google,
amazon and Apple will seek to become new education providers, rivalling
government and independent providers. There is a difference between
e-learning and screen time however, and we recognise that technology
is a huge social experiment on children and that according
to a recent report by Nellie Bowles in the New Yorker, persuasive
psychologists working for tech companies, such as Apple and Google, ‘compete
ferociously to get products into schools and target students at an early age,
when brand loyalty begin to form.
’ She goes on to describe these tools as ‘phenomenally
addictive’
designed by psychologists ‘well-versed in the field of persuasive design’ that is influencing
human behaviour through the screen. We
should pause to consider why schools in Silicon valley are limiting or banning
technology in some of their schools while child care contracts demand that
nannies hide phones, tablets, computers and TVs from their charges. Or as Katharine Birbalsingh
Head of Michaela Community School tweeted rathermore forcefully: “I
say this to parents at school. The fat cats make their billions off giving your
children the latest tech gadget while they fill their houses with books”.

Yet while some
things may change, others may stay the same. We need to root out some of the
ideas that have been allowed to creep into education, even the
constant changes in language, theory and terminology, so that topics become
unintelligible to parents – I’m thinking of new methods of maths or such
grammatical terms such as causal
connectives and fronted adverbials now required for
SATs –
or perhaps confusion is the intention?
Of all the schools I have taught in and teachers and methods I have
seen, when it comes to teaching children to read, to learn their tables,
spelling and writing, nothing has compared to the rigorous and yet sensitive
teaching by an exceptional teacher in the first school I ever taught at with
its emphasis on practice, on developing memory, on repetition, on high
expectations. She worked wonders with
children who we would now label as having severe learning difficulties and by
ignoring the difficulties, transcended them.
Children came out of her class with the rudiments in place, with a standard
of work that constantly surprised them and a self-discipline and pride that
stayed with them. It is proven that direct instruction has consistent, positive
effects on student achievement. While we
need to change what and how we teach, discipline and rigor will
remain at the heart of learning, aided and abetted by high expectations and a
sense of purpose.

In the
short-term we need to do away with league tables and find academic alternatives
to A Levels – T Levels with teeth –and develop our vocational offering. We need
to recognise that measuring and ranking students on applied intelligence to a
prescribed body of knowledge is the antithesis of the fluid and flexible
education our children will need in the future.

We hear so much about AI and
technology, yet there has been no greater waste of resources and time over the
past twenty years than the amounts schools have spent on technology – and this
is unlikely to stop soon although education is the most resistant fortress of
all. We know technology can embellish lessons and add to the learning
experience, mill knowledge banks and gives lessons greater applicability and
relevance through virtual or augmented reality. Yet for every teacher who uses
it well, there are as more for whom it is a distraction, something that gets
between the teacher and the learner. But change is coming as recently signalled
by universities who will no longer accept hand written exams, by an increase in
collaboration through cloud computing, the rise of the autonomous learner,
coding and multiple learning stations,. . The state of Utah has been rolling out a state-funded online-only preschool, now serving
around 10,000 children. It’s happening and we should be wary. What would be more helpful
would be for algorithms to allow teachers more time to teach – that is rather
than being a teaching tool creating different ways to teach that they will
allow more time to teach, so schools are not tied to producing copious amounts
of data and policy. With the large number of policies required to be on school
websites – and for parents who don’t know, most schools even have a policy on
policies, the human resources of a school are under ever increasing pressure.
If new algorithms can help schools to manage admissions, policies, data
accumulation, reporting, with pastoral care and record keeping, then teachers
will be able to get on with their teaching.

Second, as teacher shortages grow, we need to look at what alternatives
there are to our traditional methods of delivery. In many countries
correspondence courses have been around for half a century or more. University
degrees through distance learning, and now e-learning, and links to lectures
through you-tube courses are commonplace. Yet it seems incredible that we are
not utilised e-learning in all schools with e-learning will be the heart of our
provision delivering a broad curriculum. This may involve subtle changes in the
role of teachers so they take on a role akin to that of a tutor, but that is
happening already. There are a number of learning platforms driven by
algorithms that promote personalized learning by analyzing
students work, pinpointing gaps in their knowledge, providing precision reporting
and insights into the student’s learning style and identifying specific abilities
and areas to improve. In the future, the
ability to measure ability by sophisticated algorithms will likely be the death
of exams as we know them.

We will need to cut back on content to allow for
other learning, of skills and the means to access new knowledge. Traditional
subjects will be assessed for the relevance of content. New subjects like
sustainability, a hybrid of economics, philosophy and geography will emerge;
old topics like trigonometry and glaciation will be marginalised while some
subjects may be cast out altogether. Traditional subjects may not change
although as in the case of History, we may decide to distinguish between the
history that explains where our country is today in relation to the countries
we connect with and the history that centres on our island’s narrative and
extolling the national mythology. Economics should take in to account the
Resilience doughnut so we start to measure economic activity by assessing the
cost of its effect on diversity and the environment for we need to educate our
young about the
environmental ceiling that consists of nine planetary boundaries, as set out by
Rockstrom et al, beyond which lies
unacceptable environmental degradation and potential tipping points in Earth
systems. Mathematics
and the Sciences will need to constantly trawl their content to update and
incorporate new knowledge. And we will
need to be more flexible, ready to embrace change cautiously and always without
compromise, by revisiting our question, ‘what
is the best education we can give our children?

Taking into account what we know of adolescence and
sleep, it may be that schools will still start at 8.30 am as they must, albeit
not for learning purposes, with the
first 90 minutes given over to creative arts or physical activity. Core teaching time could be restricted for no
more than three hours: 10.00am to 1.00pm, with its focus on the effectiveness
of engagement. In the afternoon, there may be a hybrid approach of some
traditional classes delivered in classrooms augmented by a wide range of
subjects available on on-line platforms including academic and vocational
training depending on age.
Extra-curricular should be brought inside the walls; outside of the core
subjects, diversity, personalised learning will become the norm as the model
evolves. And evolve it must.

There would be
an emphasis on creative arts and the skills that are required for this new
world – music, art, design, drama, coding – and an emphasis on imagination and
enquiry in all subjects. And languages, we must encourage languages, even more
so as we slip out of Europe. A new survey last week found that half of young
people feel that their education has not prepared them for the world of work’ –
which is why we have to change the paradigm to provide the diversity and
flexibility and skills required. As a
counterweight, we need also to blush when we hear the label the snowflake
generation for this is something we have created. Young adults, in turn, wll
need to learn to be patient in their ambition, more flexible, prepared to spend
time to learn, to understand the importance of loyalty, service and hard work
and personal sacrifice in a quest not to make money, but to make a difference.
Even if we haven’t told them so, at least not yet

To achieve
this, we need to make sure that education reflects our beliefs and values as a
society. This is the why to which we return, the ethical premise and the
values, behaviours and attitudes which underpin our lives. At present, we are
playing catch up at the very time the glaciers are melting and technology is
taking us on a white water ride. Our
moral principles have been compromised by not being explicit enough and this
has allowed big business to ride roughshod over the environment. With climate
change and conservation marginalized by those whose profits are affected and
who therefore have no truck with those who fight for environmental change and
for regeneration. This is why we need a new paradigm: it is not just about integrating
technology or changing a curriculum, integrating new skills or growing
emotional intelligence. It is also about
fighting for our future by providing our children with an ethical framework on
which to build a sustainable society for the future and to give purpose and
direction to their lives.