If there is one thing that has come out of this second week in Exeter University’s FutureLearn MOOC –Testing Times in the Classroom: Challenges of 21st Century Education – it is that it is not easy to determine the purpose of education. Everyone has a view on this and these views appear to be culturally, contextually and experientially dependent. It has been interesting to read the perspectives of participants from different parts of the world.
Views on the purpose of education can also be time dependent. Just a quick look at what some notable philosophers, activists, artists, writers and scientists from the past and present have said confirms this, although some succeeded in making timeless statements which are as valid today as when they were said. For example, Albert Einstein’s (1879-1955) comment that ‘Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think’, resonated with a lot of participants.
Then we have the question of what the word ‘Education’ means and how is it different from ‘Schooling’. It’s interesting to try and clarify the similarities and differences between education and schooling.
Schools can come in for a bit of stick. For example in this video – I Sued the School System
Personally I think it’s too easy to lay the blame of a failing education system at the door of schools and teachers, whose hands are often tied by government policies. According to another video we have been shown this week, the problem is that we ‘simply have the wrong curriculum’.
I don’t think this video’s got it completely right either, although I’m not sure what completely right would be. Perhaps that’s what’s wrong with the video – the suggestion that they have the answer. I don’t think it’s as simple as finding one solution. But this led to an interesting discussion around some of the major philosophies of education, which were listed as:
To support this discussion we were led to a quiz on an external site which aimed to identify which philosophies we lean towards. I don’t know how reliable the quiz scores are, but I was surprised that social reconstructivism came out on top in my quiz score, whereas I would have expected it to be existentialism. What is abundantly clear is that here in the UK the national curriculum is an example of essentialism, so perhaps the problem is that we ‘simply have the wrong curriculum’, but I don’t believe there’s anything simple about it.
The question that we haven’t yet discussed is if so many of us recognise what is wrong with our education systems, why are they so difficult to change? What do we need for a paradigm shift?