I’d like to separate the discussion into two entities; the “formal system” that we (read so called developed countries) have sanitised, packaged and apportioned the accumulation of “facts” and “skills” into from the more general “informal system” of education, accumulated from a series life lessons, often artisan based, handed from generation to generation.
Education, at the hands of politicians, has had the “formal system” perpetually tinkered with, to the point where many would consider it broken beyond repair. We patch the mistakes of previous regimes, we re-invent & repackage tried and tested pedagogical approaches under new names and constantly shift responsibilities from the learner to the teacher. To paraphrase David Marcus from The Wrath of Khan, “Teachers have always been the pawns of politicians”.
Sadly, the “informal system” has fared just as poorly. Parents, employers and society at large have been happy to delegate the responsibilities of their “informal system” to the patently dysfunctional “formal” option. It feels that we live in a time when the expectation is for schools to provide ALL the education a young person’s needs – and upon emergence from Year 13, out pops a well-mannered, socially adjusted, independently motivated young adult with requisite skills and knowledge to enjoy all the riches life has to offer. Piffle.
To return to the question over the purpose of education, for me it’s clear. Education is about turning windows on the World into doors and passengers into drivers.
Education is that lofty goal of providing glimpses into Donald Rumfeld’s “Known Unknowns” – without education, we don’t know what we don’t know and we don’t know what opportunities we are missing. This seems to have been lost in the current incarnations of education policy. The political apparatchiks who control the National Curriculum have decided what’s statutory and what can be considered an “option” – and to paraphrase another quote, the clear implication is that “whilst all subjects are equal, some are more equal”. The wider impact on the learner or their contribution to society post compulsory education is rarely discussed.
There is another way. Look at the Bank of England. In 1998, the Bank was given operation independence from central government to decide UK monetary policy. Sure the politicians set targets – to keep inflation at 2% or lower, but the policy is set independently.
Surely we can conceive a system where Education is taken away from the politicians and an august body of pedagogical experts from across all phases thrash out the best and more importantly, consistent approach to moving the debate on?
Again, the purpose of education, is clear. Education is about turning windows on the World into doors and passengers into drivers.
How we achieve this goal is the question that keeps me awake.
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