The current National Standards debate is highlighting a very important question – What’s the purpose of education? Every school, teacher, principal and parent will have an answer for this and we see these ideas being played out in the decisions that teachers, Principals and schools are making every day. Here are three main themes I think you might encounter.
Schools exist to…
1. – assist a student to reach their academic potential,
2. – prepare and produce economic workers for our economic well being,
3. – create well rounded citizens who effectively contribute to society.
If you keep these three goals in mind when interacting with people day to day you will quickly hear the goal they are most striving to meet.
When you hear a Principal talking about their school having student achievement as it’s core function – then you are listening to someone who believes in the first idea. If a government puts policy in place to create standardised outcomes for students then it’s obvious that the second idea is in mind. And when a school provides extra curricula activities and instills a school wide values programme then the third has become part of it’s ethos.
What I’d suggest is occurring throughout the country is a clear demarcation of principals and boards, governments and communities around the aims of education; a line in the sand is being drawn. And there is one obvious litmus test of this line – the actions being taken in the shadow of National Standards, in New Zealand, and national testing worldwide. In other words, how a Principal responds to the National Standards debate is a reflection on what they believe the purpose of our education system is. The decisions they make on time spent in class, how they structure their classrooms, the PD they arrange for their staff and even the physical spaces they create for their learners.
What I’m predicting will happen is that we will see this ‘line in the sand’, between those schools who see it’s purpose being in academic achievement and those who seek a holistic approach to student growth as well rounded people, become more and more vivid and marked. There is little debate around the fact that schools must adapt and reform to meet the demands of an ever changing world ( just google, ’21st Century learning’) but what IS being debated is how.
Whether schools continue to focus on the 3 Rs, whether they travel on a journey of personalised learning and student empowerment, and whether they deconstruct the traditional teaching and learning model to one that suits their modern learning community. All of these decisions will begin to create schools who look VASTLY different from each other – ones who are completely reformed and those who have stayed the same. These are interesting days and the results of these lines will, I’d suggest, will be very different types of schools across the educational landscape.
So, if I play this prediction out and we do have very different types of schools, it could lead to;
– Parents having a wide range of options about the kind of school they want their children to belong
– Teachers becoming very selective and purposeful about teaching at schools that match their educational philosophies
– Principals forming informal ‘clusters’ of colleagues that will collaborate together with others of like minds – even more so than we see today.
(Side note – From someone who is relatively young and new to this career… I can see this beginning to happen. And I’m VERY excited!)