What do we value in education?


For a while now I have been thinking about education and what it means to me and how it can be changed to really meet the needs of society. Lots of chats on Twitter and events I have attended have added to this mix and I thought it was about time that I wrote it all down somewhere to make some sense of it all.

The crux of the problem is the system that values certain things at the expense of others, and its not just schools that have this value imbalance.

When you apply for a job you have to meet certain requirements, in most cases you will have to state that you have gained a C grade at least in English and Maths, here is the start of the issue. If that is what businesses value then that is what schools need to achieve. If that is what schools then see as the most important then that is what is passed on to the students. And then it simply becomes fact. English and Maths is the most important thing. Add to this then the research, people will look to research to prove if something should or shouldn’t take place. I have had my own discussions around whether technology has an impact in schools with the other side asking for evidence of impact. Well here is the issue. The evidence that is required is to say whether it improves exam results. Specifically in those subjects that business deems to be the most important. So where that might not be evident they see it as proof it doesn’t work. Proof based on the element of value it GCSE exam results over other things. The data will always show that success comes from good exam results, primarily because that is what everyone asks for when you go for a job.

To make some more sense of this lets flip it slightly.

Let’s imagine for a second that top companies changed what they value, away from English and Maths GCSE or A Levels and focused on something else. For arguments sake, lets say Tomato Ketchup. (Stay with me). Now these businesses say that having Tomato Ketchup is really important, so what happens next.

1. Everyone wants to buy Ketchup

2. Ketchup goes up in price

3. Ketchup is in short supply

4. Those with Ketchup are seen as better than those without.

Due to the value added to the ‘thing’ its now the ‘thing’ everyone wants to have.

So as we change what we value we change how the system works.

If we want creative individuals that can communicate and challenge the norm, to be decision makers and problem solvers, we need to show that this is what we value. Companies need to focus on these things rather than the grades. Todd Rose in his book The End Of Average, discusses how businesses have started to change to this way of thinking and are having better results in recruitment. If you want someone who can do a certain thing, then ask for that. If you need them to have a GCSE in Maths then have it as a criteria, but do you really need it in all jobs?

When we change what we value as a society we can change society. It only takes a few individuals to share a thought to have an impact. If we as teachers don’t like the system, if employers are not happy with the skills of students as they leave education, then maybe we start to change those values

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