My 500 words for http://purposed.org.uk/

Sort of disclaimer: I have met and value the many excellent teachers and schools out there and you know who you are. There are others…

I’m grateful to the previous #purposed authors for the clarity of their thoughts on this topic.

So, what’s the purpose of education?

If we’re asking; ‘What’s the purpose of the education system?’ then I’m tempted to say;

‘To ensure everyone knows their place’.

Its purpose is to manage their expectations and confirm we have enough doctors, lawyers, waiters and hairdressers. The education system is about maintaining the status quo – not about challenging or changing it.

Teach to the exams, based on a curriculum, set by those in power and, hey, if we throw in a few interactive whiteboards, ‘safe’ websites, a couple of Wordles and a Nintendo,  it’ll look like we’re making a difference. Hmm.

If we’re asking what’s the point of education and, I suppose learning?..   Now, that’s a great question.

I wasn’t going to be a teacher. I was going to be a potter. I had a place at art college – and then I discovered sociology and literature. I graduated and wondered what to do with (what was once described as) a degree in ‘Bugger All’.

A great teacher said to me; ‘Before you decide to become a teacher you must decide what you want to achieve – the purpose of education is Change’  His words have stayed with me for over  30 years.

So I would change the world.  I was one of those ‘creative’ and ‘innovative’ teachers who pioneered, oracy, collaborative writing, cross phase projects, multimedia authoring and ICT for a purpose – not a subject. The result? The Head of ICT described me as a ‘Dabbler’ and punished kids I sent along to ‘use the computers’.

What has changed? Has Building Schools for the Future changed anything?

Very little.

On the bell, start and end the lesson,

Start at 9am – end at 4pm

Yes, we have technology in the classroom and let’s ensure we use it appropriately – not to replicate 19th centuryclassrooms with new multi mediocre learning opportunities.

Use tech when it adds value – not because it’s new. In the mid 90’s to my shame I taught a class of  4yr olds to use digital cameras, upload and print their pictures. I thought I was so bleeding edge, yet it was the pedagogical equivalent of teaching a bear to ride a bike.

What about the kids who don’t ‘get it’ during The Lesson? Those who may think of the answer at teatime, at their friends’ house or during the holidays?

That’s what mobile learning platforms are for. We need teachers online at 8pm and at weekends  – ready to praise, support and engage with learners and participate in their learning – when they’re ready to learn. Why aren’t we marching in the streets demanding the right to change the education system?

As a father I want my kids to be confident, creative and happy.

As adults I need them to be adaptable and tenacious problem solving learners.

These are the qualities and skills we need to nurture in our children – and our colleagues.

What’s the purpose of education? I want the same for the kids in our schools as I want for my own kids…

the opportunities and ambition to change the world.


12 Responses to Purposed

  1. Doug Belshaw says:

    Thanks for the contribution, Simon! I think that your anecdote about wanting to be X but ending up doing Y is something to which we can all relate. And, in fact, we need to build such adaptability and recognition *into* the education system.

    To *not* know what you want to do, to go with the flow and to see what happens isn’t hippy-like. It’s life. 🙂

  2. Thanks for this post Simon – I think the advice you got all those years ago : ) was bang on!
    ‘Before you decide to become a teacher you must decide what you want to achieve – the purpose of education is Change’

    I think this sums up how I feel about education on so many levels – in a wonderfully concise way!

    Change is a constant – and yet we try to teach for a fixed curriculum, age groupings, etc…
    I also like “…decide what you want to achieve”
    This is, surely, crucial. Yet our whole education system seems to ignore this on a daily basis.

    Thanks to Purpos/ed – we are now thinking about it as a wider group – but where is this happening elsewhere? In staffrooms? Almost never!

    Thanks again Simon and keep ‘dabbling’

  3. Doug Woods says:

    spot on.
    There’s a difference between an education system (or schooling) and education (or learning) and you’ve highlighted that well.

    Something in my gut, though, says that if the government has put money into the system, then it has some right to say what it expects from it. Another feeling in my gut says that this may sometimes be contrary to what we might think of as real learning.

    • simfin says:

      It’s the lack of vision and ambition that makes me so downhearted. This is not helped when we see those In Power harking back to their own school days

    • Theo Kuechel says:

      Possibly Doug, but the Government does not have any money, (so we are told), indeed, it is our (taxpayers) money, so I expect we should all have a say. And #purposed is making a damn good start by facilitating a channel that goes beyond the predictable fare regurgitated by the media.

  4. I’m glad I clicked that link and read your post today, Simon. Flexible, creative, mobile learning – yes! I am awed by the huge challenge of reforming our education “system” (I write from Ireland, but the challenges are much the same). But, as a mother, an educator and a citizen, I don’t consider this task to be anything but essential. Thanks for your personal reflections — great food for thought.

  5. Simon Ensor says:

    Change is inevitable except from vending machines

  6. Alex Bellars says:

    Thanks for your idealism, your clarity and your positivity. “Opportunities and ambition to change the world”? BRING IT ON!

    And I think you have alluded to a crucial factor which will ultimately determine how successful purpos/ed and other such “movements” are going to be: we need to persuade colleagues who, by definition, are *not* the sort who might stumble into a forum such as this of the value in what you and other #500 word=ers are saying…

  7. Susan Banister says:

    Is it idealism to think that education can give the opportunities and ambition to change the world? I hope not. I hope it is what we all strive for. I think it is easy for new teachers with supposed grand ideas to go into schools and be ground down by old cynics. In turn they may turn into one. But that is another argument for another time.
    I see a lot of great use of ICT and technology in school that enhances learning rather than jumping on the bandwagon but that is really not the norm yet. You are spot on with what it should offer.It should be used to free learning. Learning should not just happen at school and students should be taught they are able to be responsible for their own learning too.
    Thanks for this Dabbler, I expect to see you in Batman soon 🙂

  8. […] , and specifically higher education ones. The first #500words pieces I read were concerned with bringing about change or confronting the inevitability of change. As well as the transformation learners undergo, […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: