Another brick in the wall?

Robot child reading a book.

What sort of an education do we REALLY want for our children?
Maybe it’s time to listen to the Pink Floyd song again but this time really listen!

Do we really want to turn our kids into robots or “just another brick in the wall?”
There are clear choices:
Choice A: Do we want happy, well rounded kids with high emotional intelligence and a wide range of talents and interests? Do we want kids who will become life-long learners? Do we want kids who love reading and love to express themselves in writing and enjoy the elegance and challenge of mathematics?
Choice B: Or do we want kids who just regurgitate facts like trained seals and do not know how to think or even have anything to think about?
Most definitely the British and Australian Governments are choosing the latter and this will have hugely negative effects on children’s well-being and ability to think, create and dream. We are in effect, once again abolishing childhood!
This is a really interesting article about the British Government trying to adopt a more test oriented approach to education- somewhat like the Chinese one; and strangely, at a time when China is moving away from this because it simply does not work!
The Australian Government is doing exactly the same. It has used the big NAPLAN stick to try to beat schools into some sort of results driven shape and reduce them to the type of school written about in Dicken’s Hard Times.
“Now, what I want is Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts; nothing else will ever be of any service to them.”
― Charles Dickens, Hard Times
It doesn’t have to be like this.
Children CAN learn the basic literacy and numeracy skills without the hugely expensive and inefficient NAPLAN process.
I don’t think all testing is wrong. As teachers we need to be aware of levels, learning styles and have practical plans to help ALL students reach their potential. However, teachers need to be given the tools to teach effectively, the resources and mentoring they need and to be trusted to get on with the job!
Term one in many schools is now given over to the new subject: NAPLAN! Kids do long, boring tests that effectively teach them how to pass tests but not much else. This means that 4 terms of work have to be crammed into the three remaining terms. No wonder teachers are tired, stressed and unwilling to teach the NAPLAN years.
We have to wake up from this soporific educational haze and look at what DOES work. I for one am sick of all the sycophantic praise given to Finland’s education system (one that DOES work) and then watching the Aussie Government totally ignoring good practice and reverting back to the big stick of testing!

Now the problem with standardized tests is that it’s based on the mistake that we can simply scale up the education of children like you would scale up making carburetors. And we can’t, because human beings are very different from motorcars, and they have feelings about what they do and motivations in doing it, or not.

Learning happens in the minds and souls, not in the databases of multiple-choice tests.
Sir Ken Robinson

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