Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Why Fix What Isn't Broken?

When National Standards arrived, I sat in our staffroom and said to everyone, "Watch out - league tables such as in the UK will be next." Today, I said to my colleagues, "Watch out, standardised testing such as SAT's in the UK will be next."

Why fix what isn't broken?

If the goal of National Standards was to level the playing field, the Ministry are fools. There is no level playing field. Inside our kids beats the same type of heart, the same lungs breathe and the same brain cells grow in their head. But their parents are different people, their homes are different, their diets vary, their family's routine and rules are different. We teach them the same types of skills, broadly, but we teach to their styles and we tailor the learning to suit their interests and knowledge needs. There is no level playing field in a million ways because we are all different. Education isn't about making everything the same for everyone - it's about teaching and learning a broad set of skills that are carried throughout our lives, skills that enable and empower us. If National Standards were suddenly supposed to cure autism, reduce child poverty, give unemployed parents a job, provide 2 parents to those who have one, build a home for those living in state homes, provide breakfast for the hungry kids and stop truancy, then I for one, would be all up for it. I do not oppose National Standards, but I fear for what comes next after league tables.

When I taught in the UK, there were simply no mainstreamed children in the schools that I worked in. Those children would lower the percentages and reduce the school's chance of being high on the league tables. Half of the year in Year 2, Year 6 and Year 10 was spent teaching to the test. The children were pumped, preened and primed to be able to (hopefully) pass this test. The league tables were useless without standardised testing, so the children suffered for it.

Why fix what isn't broken?

We are the envy of many nations around the world. They look at our incredible, child-centred curriculum and they envy what we have. They glance at the Key Competencies that underpin our teaching and they wish that their governments and Ministry of Education could emulate that sort of holistic approach to learning. They see the integrated programmes and they wonder if their systems could ever support that type of thinking. We are luckier than we realise and the risk of National Standards was always that league tables would follow and then standardised testing would follow that. And what is the next tumble on effect? Back to chalk and talk as we attempt to pump irrelevant and ridiculous test information into children so that we can look like we have achieved well as teachers because of a silly league table.

Why fix what isn't broken?

Because perhaps not enough of the RIGHT people don't realise how incredibly well-contructed our curriculum is. Well, teachers and students do. But I just don't know if that's enough any more.

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