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Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Education Reform - Is it Possible?

Recently I completed my Masters of Education and the thing that really surprised me was to find that all the things I had complained about public education while my children and their friends were growing up had been discussed and commented on by education experts over 50 years ago!  If they knew the system didn't work back then, why do we still have the same system now?  Why does serious education reform seem to be impossible?  (I am not talking about the latest "flavour of the month" reforms which come and go all the time.)

There are, to simplify things, two main reasons change does not happen.  First, those who have the power and benefit from the current system are obviously resistant to change.  This might include bureaucrats, union members, tenured teachers, curriculum developers, textbook publishers, etc.  Second, is a basic human fear of change.  It doesn't work; it didn't work when we were in school; but at least it is familiar.  "Better the devil you know than the devil you don't."  Right?  Problem with that is you are always stuck with a devil.  Staying with a bad system leaves no hope for a good one to arise. 

I am not really an anarchist.  I am not advocating completely destroying the public school system and scrounging around for a substitute.  I am saying that if, as a society, we truly want to reform our education system, we are going to have to give up some of the safe secure (but failing) practices that we know. 

A way to start is to ask questions about the current system.  Just take a moment and try to think of your answers and if they are relevant.

1)    Why do we put children born in the same year all together?

2)    Why do we teach the subjects separately as if life is compartmentalized?

3)     Why do we see learning in school as separate from learning in life?

4)     Why do educators seek standard best practices for teaching when each child is different?

5)     Why does the student who blindly follows orders and does what he/she is told succeed the most in school?

6)     Why is imagination, breaking out of boxes, free expression usually frowned upon in class?

7)    What does school have to do with life?

Reform will happen one teacher, one administrator, one parent, one citizen at a time, if we want it to happen.  Otherwise, we will continue to fail our children and our society.   Or we will remove our children from the system and let it die - which would be the worst tragedy of all.  Except the tragedy of sacrificing another child on the altar of the "same old, same old."  Private schools and homeschools are there because the system is not listening.  So yell a little louder!

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