Updated: Aug 6
We, like many of our colleagues have come to a crossroads. Some get there quicker than others. The fact is we reach the same point. A point where we look at our career, our job and the reason for our industry and say ‘we don’t believe in this anymore’. Teachers ranging in experience from a few years to 30 years coming to the same conclusion. Can it be that they are all burnt out or not up to the job? I don’t think so. There are too many and too varied a sample to have such simple explanations. These committed and highly trained individuals have looked at the system and realised it is broken and fails to deliver on the most basic of levels.
Why do we educate?
One reason and maybe one of the oldest is to prepare the future workforce for the workplace. But the problem we face is that the workplace of today has changed radically from the workplace of yesterday. In this sense the education system that we currently use is already over a century out of date without considering the new pressures of the ever changing world of work. Students need to be given the skills to adapt to a rapidly changing society where the jobs of tomorrow may not even exist. Those jobs may well become obsolete within years as the benefits of computers and artificial intelligence reap rewards.
The current system attempts a one size fits all attitude and then demands the teacher adapts this model to the needs of sometimes thirty plus students, clearly this is unmanageable and the teacher then finds themselves at odds with the system.
When the system works well, it provides a service that still doesn't prepare the student for the world of work but rather for further academic achievement, which is fine but how many academics do we really need? On the face of it Labours pledged under Tony Blair of 50 percent of our students achieving at a higher level is applaudable but one has to consider the need for that level or in fact whether it is fair to give so many high expectations without the workplaces to satisfy them.
What do the grades for our academic qualifications really tell us about the individual and their readiness for the workplace or even in some cases for their next step in their academic journey? They are a snapshot in time that reflect the individual's ability to recall facts and sometimes, depending on the skill of the examiner use those facts in a novel form. So the examination tells us a few things:
It is a snapshot of knowledge retained at that time.
It shows (possibly) a level of cognitive development (depending on the quality of the question)
It shows the ability to retain information (possibly long term but more likely short term)
It shows the individuals ability to cope with the examination
All of these are admirable attributes for the academic environment but how do they relate to the world of work which at some point will be the eventual goal? Employers put the following skill sets forward as their desired skills to be present in a prospective employee:
Flexibility and open mindedness
Willingness to develop
We could generously say that conventional exam based schooling leads us to development in 2 or 3 of these areas, but within those I feel there is only a cursory nod to them. The last two are difficult to imagine encouraged in a system that has not substantially changed in 150 - 200 years. This is without taking into account the rapid pace of change within the workplace where the demands are changing all the time and at an exponential rate. Many jobs that are common place now did not exist 10 or 15 years ago. Students therefore need courses that encourage the development of these core skills and the subject material should act as the transport for that to happen.
Where we are
The world is currently in turmoil on a local and a global level. There are many movements looking for and advocating change. There have been a number of strange situations evolving in the world. Some votes by ‘the people’ seem strange, not necessarily wrong, but strange. The Brexit vote, election of Trump and the rise of Boris Johnson. These all lead the world to a rather different place than before. Extremist groups seem to be getting more and more prominent and the general feeling of unease and dissatisfaction seems to be growing. There seems to be a greater and greater acceptance that there really is a global atmospheric problem, there is general agreement that the financial systems of the world are on a knife edge due to uncertainty and the world has to face up to its greatest threat: sustainability.
Geovle is part of the solution
It’s within this climate that we must look for change and this change must be new and radical and not harping back to the old ways that led to the current problems. These new solutions must come from new styles of thinking and we need to engage with a new lateral way of solving problems that will help to guide the world through the tricky 4th industrial revolution and the rise of Artificially Intelligent technologies. Education matters more than ever but it must evolve.