Monday, 23 January 2017

Too much, too young: Should schooling start at age 7?

England and a few other countries start formal education at age 4 or 5. That's harmful and misguided.

Read the full article by David Whitebread and Sue Bingham from The New Scientist (November 2013) HERE.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

The Cultural Imperialism of Schooling

I have thought & spoken before about the idea of schooling being a kind of cultural imperialism, by which I mean, a culture imposed upon the masses by those who think they know best - usually by virtue of their background, class or their own educational success. This is an idea taken up by Carol Black in her profoundly challenging film: Schooling the World: The White Man's Last Burden. If you haven't watched it, do.

The description of the film says ....
"If you wanted to change a culture in a generation, how would you do it?
You would change the way it educates its children.
The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th century when it forced Native American children into government boarding schools. Today, volunteers build schools in traditional societies around the world, convinced that school is the only way to a ‘better’ life for rural and Indigenous children.
But is this true?  What really happens when we replace another culture’s canon of knowledge with our own?  Does life really get better for its people?
SCHOOLING THE WORLD takes a challenging, sometimes funny, ultimately deeply troubling look at the role played by modern education in the destruction of the world’s last sustainable land-based cultures ....
And it questions our very definitions of wealth and poverty – and of knowledge and ignorance – as it uncovers the role of schools in the destruction of traditional sustainable agricultural and ecological knowledge, in the breakup of extended families and communities, and in the devaluation of ancient spiritual traditions.
... SCHOOLING THE WORLD calls for a “deeper dialogue” between cultures, suggesting that we have at least as much to learn as we have to teach, and that these ancient sustainable societies may harbor knowledge which is vital for our own survival in the coming millenia."

Although it appears wholly disconnected, for Christmas I received a book:

Today, down with a heavy cold, I have started reading it. I want to share the first few pages with you (With credit to James Rebanks) Click on each page to read ....

My husband often works in challenging classrooms in our own city here in the Midlands where there seems to be disconnect between the teacher / culture of school and the young people who frequent these classrooms. That is why I said in my TEDx talk we need to profoundly change the way in which we engage these young people. We need to recognise the value of their own stories and the worlds that they inhabit. We need to help them to write their own journeys, discover the dreams and talents within, enabling and facilitating, rather than always thinking that we know better ....

When I was 15, I went to my GCSE Geography teacher with an idea for my coursework, a geographical enquiry. I went to him, a young Sussex girl with my love for the Downs and the Weald, and fascination for the geographical features I encountered walking the local hills with my friend. I wanted to investigate the strata of the hillsides; I certainly wanted a project rooted in the local countryside I loved. But the teacher didn't encourage my interest .... "You should do urbanisation," he said. Urbanisation? What did I know about urbanisation? But, ever the compliant student, I spent the weeks that followed studying global urbanisation, and drawing seemingly endless pie-charts, all beautifully coloured and nicely presented. I got an A in GCSE Geography, but a line of self-initiated enquiry was closed to me and, a few years later, life and education moved me away from those Downs I so love. I miss them still ....

"Students learn to pass, not to know. They do pass, and they don’t know."(Thomas Huxley)

"The question is not - How much does the youth know when he has finished his education - but how much does he care?" (Charlotte Mason)

Though I no longer dwell in the South Downs, the South Downs will always dwell in me.

Now as fracking companies threaten those hills of mine, who will stand before the destructive machinery and say, "No" if we do not care? Who will stand with the native American communities at Standing Rock and say, "Save our Water" unless we care? The Grade A is not so important, really, is it? Not for a rootless urbanite who really just wants to go home ....


Innovation Doesn’t Come in a Kit (8 Better Options)

I love this piece from Laura Grace Weldon ... When I talk about Mentoring Self-Directed Learners, I talk about building "the Maker habit" .... Like Laura's children, my eldest son has never been one to follow instructions ... HERE Laura gives 8 cheap, easy, playful ways to raise makers.

'Whether students take too many tests misses the point: testing has elevated assessment above pedagogy'

"In England, the prevalence of high-stakes testing linked to school status, teacher accountability and student progression, creates considerable backwash, disfiguring both curriculum and pedagogy. The impact on curriculum is well-attested. Time allocated to subjects covered in high-stakes tests expands and squeezes out other curriculum subjects, impoverishing the educational experience."

"Asserting that students do not take too many tests misses the point. It is not the substance of the tests that matters, it is the shadow they cast ... “Students learn to pass, not to know. They do pass, and they don’t know”."

Read the full article from today's TES here.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Ready, steady ... stay at home? The benefits of a delayed school start

I started my TEDx talk by talking about my eldest son's delayed school start. It is my conviction that plenty of opportunity to play in the primary years is crucial for foundational understanding to which abstract concepts can later be applied. My husband, who teaches secondary maths, is continually shocked at how children struggle to understand mathematical concepts, after all their primary schooling ... He always says, "They haven't had enough opportunity to play."

This week, our youngest son has asked to play with Hama beads, and he has been making lovely little symmetrical designs. I gave him a mirror to play with, and told him about lines of symmetry. He enjoys using the mirror to find the lines of symmetry in the patterns he has created. It is clearly where his interest and attention lie right now. Surely this will help him later in his more abstract mathematical understanding. I believe we need more of this free play and enquiry-based learning.

"In recent years, many schools have introduced more formal modes of instruction into the classrooms of young children. Whether this new emphasis provides the correct balance of instruction and play for most young children is far from clear."

Read the full article from The Guardian (November 2015) HERE.

Iceland knows how to stop teen substance abuse, but the rest of the world isn’t listening ...

"Public wariness and an unwillingness to engage will be challenges wherever the Icelandic methods are proposed ... and go to the heart of the balance of responsibility between states and citizens. “How much control do you want the government to have over what happens with your kids? Is this too much of the government meddling in how people live their lives?

In Iceland, the relationship between people and the state has allowed an effective national programme to cut the rates of teenagers smoking and drinking to excess – and, in the process, brought families closer and helped kids to become healthier in all kinds of ways. Will no other country decide these benefits are worth the costs?"

“We learned through the studies that we need to create circumstances in which kids can lead healthy lives, and they do not need to use substances, because life is fun, and they have plenty to do – and they are supported by parents who will spend time with them.”

Read the full article from Mosaic: The Science of Life HERE.
What do you think?

Schools face cuts of £3bn, says watchdog

"School leaders have warned of deepening financial problems - with head teachers in West Sussex threatening that this could mean cutting school hours.
Almost every state school head in the local authority had written to the Prime Minister Theresa May in the autumn warning of the "dire financial position".
"Schools are struggling to function adequately on a day-to-day basis, and, in addition, we are severely hampered in our ability to recruit and retain staff, work with reasonable teacher-pupil ratios and to buy basic equipment," said the letter from more than 250 heads."

Read the full article from BBC News HERE.