public sector

The Tyranny of Testing – Is the Backlash Coming?

By Warwick Mansell, freelance education journalist Image © Jeff Pioquinto, SJ    “The system has to change. I don’t really know what the answer is, but I do know we don’t get the best out of our pupils by demoralizing or devaluing their teachers.” So began a heartfelt blog posting published in March 2014 by a young teacher who has been grappling with what seems to be England’s increasingly suffocating professional-accountability-through-student-assessment regime.  To an outsider such as me  – I am a journalist and parent whose children have yet to go through compulsory education – it seems as if English schools are in the grip of a kind of insanity. A system which has an internal logic, but begins to look more than a little crazy when you stand back.  The “system,” then, is results-driven accountability in which schools’ futures, and those of their teachers, are shaped by the performance of their students in assessments, often in a narrow range of academic subjects.  This concept will be familiar to readers elsewhere; England’s structure has similarities to that which has been used in the United States under the No Child Left Behind Act. We are certainly not alone in having a system which puts pressure on children to do well in assessments.  But the many ways in which student assessment results have become high-stakes not just for learners but for the institutions educating them still makes England’s system remarkable, and worth trying to understand.  EDUCATION BY NUMBERS England’s schools are held to account, first, through a kind of market system, with the performance of each institution’s students in externally-marked English and maths tests at age 11, then in more external exams which pupils take between the ages of 14 and 18, published in Government-overseen “league tables” which parents peruse and use when choosing schools. The schools then succeed or struggle in part according to those choices.  The achievements of pupils in these assessments are also the key measures used by inspectors who come and visit schools and then write reports on their overall quality.  Government ministers can now also order the transfer of schools to private – though non-profit – management if results are deemed not good enough. On the other hand, schools with rapidly-improving scores can see their principals given a knighthood, England’s highest honour. Performance-related pay has now been mandated on the profession, such that – in a development that the teacher with whom this blog started said was sapping his enthusiasm – teachers are often expected to justify their position by demonstrating that pupils are making constant progress when assessed.  Image © audiolucistore MY SCHOOL IS WORRIED MORE ABOUT MY GRADES THAN ABOUT ME This structure of basing how schools and teachers are judged on the performance of their students, usually in external exams, can be justified on the grounds that everybody, surely, should want pupils to achieve their best, especially in those assessments that are central to the accountability regime; English and mathematics.  The question is whether it is helping to create the kind of educational experience we might want for children. I tweeted a question about this in December, after my wife was told by a friend that her five-year-old had told her he “didn’t like learning” because of the pressure of assessment he was already encountering. In response, one parent wrote to me at length about her concerns about constant testing as experienced by her child, saying pressure built on schools to demonstrate constant progress with young pupils. In January, the charity Young Minds, which campaigns on young people’s mental health, published a survey of 2000 11 to 25 year-olds which found that more than half felt failures if they did not achieve good grades. More shockingly, perhaps, 49% agreed with the statement “my school is/was more worried about my grades than about me.” And if, as many will tell you, this regime is creating stressed-out teachers who believe they can no longer be trusted to do their jobs without worrying about what the next set of exams might bring, and that good people might leave the profession as a result, it must be worrying. LIFE IN, AND OUT, OF THE EXAM FACTORY That was certainly one of the themes of focus group meetings with teachers around England last summer, which I attended on behalf of a major science education organization. Meanwhile, in February, a prominent teacher wrote a blog saying she was leaving teaching because: “I see children channelled into becoming automatons, devoid of life and hope, sitting listlessly asking ‘just tell me what I need for the exam’ and I want to weep.”  When I posted a link to this blog on social media, this was one of the responses: “I am going too…no other job, mortgage to pay but can’t continue the lie. Crying as I read this.” Also in March, the Guardian newspaper published a report on the pressures of England’s “exam factory” schools, saying “long hours, endless [exam grade] targets, worried children” meant teachers were “quitting in droves.” The piece began with a story of a drama teacher lamenting how she could no longer put on musicals with older students because of the time demands of preparing them for tests and the fact that the drama hall was needed for exams. It is difficult to change our system, a position about which I hope to write more in my next blog. But I do wonder if a backlash is coming against at least some of the worst problems being generated by this system. If so, it is not before time. Warwick Mansell is a freelance education journalist, specializing in investigating the examination and testing system and its implications for teaching. His work can be found published in the Guardian and the Times Education Supplement. He is the author of Education by Numbers: The Tyranny of Testing.  

No Internet? Just Use Cell Phones

The Learning 203S0 Summit focuses on the future of high school education, a future that will be influenced by the wider landscape of education issues; from informal to formal education, primary to post-secondary. In this Learning 2030 Blog entry explore how mobile technology is making a difference in Ugandan school systems. Image © mejymejy by Geoffrey Ssembajjwe, Learning 2030 Blog Contributor Access to information can transform lives and livelihoods. This is particularly true in places where access to information is hindered by economic, geographic, or social barriers.  Today, the rapidly growing reach of cell phones and other modern communications technologies holds tremendous potential to overcome some of these obstacles. A school system that runs on cell phones Creatively and innovatively including teachers, parents, pupils, local leaders and local education authorities in school governance can go a long way in creating schools where children actually learn.  It is widely acknowledged that good quality schools can only be created through inclusion of all stakeholders in school governance. But, how you can effectively include all the stakeholders in the governance of schools without burdening the system? An effective (and cheap) solution that allows for participatory school governance as well as improved school administrative systems and educational programming in developing nations is mobile technology.   Image © kiwanja Showing up with SMS One area where this could prove especially vital is in monitoring school attendance for both students and teachers. At any given time, 27% of Ugandan youth are not in school, and a lack of follow-up on students who are missing classes by teachers and school administrators does little to encourage attendance.  High rates of teacher absenteeisum (20-30% in some districts) costs the Ugandan government the equivalent of $30 million (USD) annually for services that are not delivered. Attendence can be easily managed using mobile phone-based technology by all stakeholders and leads to greater accountability in the system. And that's it’s just one segment in the school administrative system which can effectively incorporate such technology. The list of uses for mobile phone technology is practically endless and can prove important in changing school systems for the better with minimal resources, especially in areas that don’t have reliable access to phone lines and the Internet through traditional means.  Simply creating a pathway for information between the schools system and parents will give parents and the wider community the ability to become more involved in what is happening locally in education. Using this novel system for communication and organization can transform schools in the developing world by 2030. Geoffrey Ssembajjwe works for Plan International in Uganda setting up school administrative systems and educational programming that use only mobile phones.

Taking Back Education After a [Literal] War on Schools

The Learning 2030 Summit focuses on the future of high school education, a future that will be influenced by the wider landscape of education issues; from informal to formal education, primary to post-secondary. In this Learning 2030 Blog entry explore how the principal of a high school that was burned to the ground during Sierra Leone's civil war views the state of education in his war-ravaged country.  by Joseph K. Kposowa, Learning 2030 Blog Contributor War-torn and developing countries have an urgent need for stable educational systems. Education is a key aspect of nation-building (or nation re-building), prosperity, and peace. What many conflict areas lack are educational systems that provide for their students physically, socio-culturally, and psychologically. Qualified teachers, teaching materials and a suitable classroom environment for students may be hard to come by, let alone the access to technology that has greatly changed education in the developed world. Connecting globally The introduction of computer studies and Internet connectivity can make a tremendous difference. In most developing countries or in countries torn apart by war, poor Internet service in schools has greatly interfered with the ability of students to share what they know with the world. My students and I have participated in Education Fast Forward (EFF) debates in both Lagos, Nigeria and Nairobi, Kenya via Cisco. We were able to consider different views on how to achieve global peace from students around the world and shared our own views on how to equip students with the skills they need to be the leaders of tomorrow. Supporting locally Psychologically, there is a need for providing care to students who have lived through war. At each school the importance of peace and of understanding the rights of children must be a focus. Additionally, promoting a healthy lifestyle through physical education can promote the wellbeing of students and the community at large.  Finally, a solid educational system can provide career guidance to its students. This will make a difference by helping students to choose courses that will equip them for a stable future. Many schools in developing countries do not prepare students for the realities of the job market and after graduation many students struggle to find work. In Sierra Leone, which endured 11 years of war, stable, solid educational systems can be found only in the private sector. I believe that the development of quality education systems that are accessible to all should be emphasized and supported school-by-school, student-by-student.    Joseph Kposowa is the principal of Sierra Leone’s Bumpe High School and a Promethean Education Fast Forward ambassador. Since 2009, the rebuilt Bumpe High School has returned to peak enrolment of 600 students – the student population it had before it was destroyed by rebels during the country’s 1991-2002 civil war.

‘Design Thinking’…and Why We Should Have a Course on Learning to Work in Groups

The Learning 2030Summit focuses on the future of high school education, a future that will be influenced by the wider landscape of education issues; from informal to formal education, primary to post-secondary. In this Learning 2030 Blog entry explore how a Canadian student views the importance of design thinking and effective collaboration. Image © neurmadic aesthetic by Bryson McLachlan, Learning 2030 Blog Contributor From the start of our educational pathways we are presented with projects and problems that require us to form groups. Collaboration is a common theme that runs throughout elementary school, high school and into university. Eventually, it spills out of academia and manifests in other ways in the professional world. It is, simply, the process of working together to solve a problem.  The goals and tasks that groups must solve vary, but what remains the same is a manifestation of the old adage “two heads [or more] are better than one.” ‘Working Well In Groups 101’ Everyone has their own opinion about group work, an opinion usually based on personality types and previous experiences. The fact of the matter is that group work can be a very successful practice for solving problems and completing projects.  Why, then, isn't there a point during formal education – high school, university, etc. – where we are taught how to work in a group setting?  Time and again people are told to work together, but how many of us have actually been schooled on the nuances of how to work collaboratively? It wasn’t until I began the Knowledge Integration program at the University of Waterloo that I received any kind of formal education in how to work collaboratively. One method to improve collaborative work and solve complex problems that I have been introduced to is design thinking. Design thinking is not difficult to learn, and it is a process that I strongly believe should be implemented into high school – and even elementary school – curriculums.  Image © Gavin Topp   What is ‘design thinking’? Design thinking doesn't have a single, concrete definition. Its essence though it is a method of problem solving that, depending how you choose break it down, consists of four to seven steps. In the version I use, the steps are as follows:  1) define the problem you need to solve 2) create and consider different problem solving options 3) refine the options and create prototypes, and  4) apply the best possible solution.  Also referred to as ‘human-centered design’, design thinking is best applied to problems that directly involve people.  Design thinking aims to be a unified, holistic approach to solving problems, and is almost always applied through group work. Why should we use design thinking? Along with the four steps outlined above, design thinking has core principles that dictate how groups should function.  These principles involve: ensuring everyone’s voice is heard, leading with empathy, and being intentional when working collaboratively.  The process works best when everyone involved can put forward their ideas without worrying if they will be received negatively. There are no good or bad ideas; only different ideas that may or may not better suit the problem at hand.  A course (or at least a unit) on working in groups? Design thinking should be taught to students at a relatively young age, perhaps middle school or the beginning of high school: Starting young allows students time to hone and develop their proficiency with design thinking itself, and also with collaboration best practices.  It would allow them to graduate high school and be comfortable with applying their skills to whatever problems arise in their academic and professional lives.  Design thinking provides: a) an effective and flexible method for solving problems both in and out of school  b) a set of principals to guide effective group work.  The landscape of our world today is rife with large-scale, complex problems that span many different disciplines.  Climate change is an excellent example as it is a social, political, and economic problem for which we have yet to find meaningful solutions.  For these types of problems to be solved, students must be equipped with the necessary tools, to be able to work with people that represent vast and diverse interest groups.  Takeaways There is no one strategy that can applied to solving every problem; it is important to research and analyze a problem before applying a specific problem solving technique.  However, many of the problems we face today require group work. If people don’t know how to properly work together, the process of solving these problems is hindered.  Teaching students design thinking at a young age will produce individuals who know how to collaborate, to extract the best ideas from every participant. Design thinking and collaboration are means to an end. If used appropriately, they can be powerful tools for producing much-needed solutions to solve wicked, large-scale problems. Bryson McLachlan is a 4th year University of Waterloo Knowledge Integration student who has worked at Treehaus Collaborative Workspace using collaboration, innovation, and creativity to build and foster a coworking community.

A Dream I Had of Learning in 2030

The Learning 2030 Summit focuses on the future of high school education, a future that will be influenced by the wider landscape of education issues; from informal to formal education, primary to post-secondary. In this Learning 2030 Blog entry explore how a young leader in Nigeria sees the future of high school education and what he thinks we need to do today to get there by 2030. by Fagbohun Omatayo, Learning 2030 Blog Contributor Image © UNNPride Dream, dream, dream... I dream of a high school where the ability to think critically would be encouraged rather than memorization. Where children can design effective solutions to address the problems that matter to them. I dream of a high school where learning would be fun, increasing the receptivity of students. I dream of a high school where children would be taught more than reading, writing, and arithmetic. A high school where creativity and innovation are emphasized. I dream of a high school where students would be “knowledge makers.” Where the classroom is a think-tank and the teachers expert resources. I dream of a high school in the next 20 years where skills in new media and entrepreneurial prowess would be nurtured and developed. I dream of a high school where the Internet would be fully utilized by the teachers as a source of learning tools. Image © carlagomo   Getting technology to students of the developing world In my view, there is no way that we can successfully separate innovation, the Internet, and technology from education in the next 20 years. The Internet is changing the way we work, play, live, even how we eat. It’s already changed the way many students learn in the developed world. Students in the developing world need access to these new tools to help tackle the complex problems they will face after school.   The world isn't static. If we are to have a dynamic future, teaching approaches and methods must change. Fagbohun Omatayo works to promote the UN's Millennium Development goals in Africa and is a Development Ambassador for Nigeria. He currently serves as a Google Student Ambassador after participating in Google Student Ambassador Summit in Nairobi, Kenya. 

Are Grades a Dying Breed of Student Assessment?

by Andy Chandler Grevatt, Learning 2030 Contributor Image © Jeff Pioquinto, SJ   “Weighing the cow doesn’t make it fatter.”  –various origins It’s typical for the high school students of today to experience regular testing. Sometimes as often as a one hour test in every six hours of teaching.  Additionally, there may even be a ‘revision lesson’ in preparation for the test. This equates to about 20% of learning time used for revision and testing.  Now add this into the mix: in England, the country where I work, from the moment that pupils start high school, they are being prepared to pass the terminal exams five years later.  The government compares schools based on how many C grades or above the pupils achieve on these exams. The response from the school is to focus on “intervention;” getting pupils from a D grade to a C grade at the expense of those on the border of other grades.  Employers now see a C grade as a “pass,” but with little knowledge or understanding of what a student with a C grade knows, understands or can do.  In fact, many teachers don’t really know what any particular grade means beyond the fact that the pupil can answer more exam questions correctly.  Image © audiolucistore   What’s really in a grade? As a teacher, I have been part of that treadmill. In reality I know that, despite the constraints of policy, teachers have much nobler ambitions for their pupils’ education. However, when push comes to shove, as a teacher, you are judged by the grades that your students achieve in terminal examinations.  You are under pressure from your students and their parents, and pushed by your bosses to ensure those students achieve the best grade possible. Beyond the almighty “A”  Becoming a researcher has allowed me to take a step back from all this to consider alternative models for assessment. I have seen excellent use of models of progression in science education to assess students. But, I have also seen poor practice where pupils are just drilled for exams; taught what is on the upcoming test and nothing more.  “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” – Albert Einstein So what do I think would be a better system of assessment: Based on reading and research, my current thinking is that: A school’s assessment framework should focus on a range of quality and skills that represent the values and aims of the whole school. Then it can be applied to individual subjects. Assessment should be part of everyday classroom practice. Both teacher and pupil need understand what successful outcomes look like. All assessments should be student-focussed. Effective feedback is essential to pupils’ progression and both teachers and pupils need to develop a common language to give and respond. Any assessment activity must focus on improving what a pupil knows, understands or can do. Teachers have to be assessment-literate. They need to understand the purposes of assessment and to have a model that suits their subject. Grades should not feature as part of the education in the school, instead reports should be based on what pupils know, understand and can do, along with clear targets for progression. Assessments should focus on authentic activities that can be assessed against clear outcomes.  Students should keep portfolios that demonstrate their developing knowledge, understanding and skills for each subject. These should form the basis of assessment and feedback. If examinations for qualifications must still exist, the students should have only a short preparation time. If the school curriculum and assessment framework have been well designed, students will already have the deep knowledge, understanding and skills required. Having said all this, assessment models will still have constraints. The cultural expectations of parents, teachers and pupils, the examination and qualification systems of the country, the values of the school, are just some examples. Could the schools of 2030 really be test and examination free? Andy Chandler-Grevatt is a Teaching Fellow in Education at the University of Sussex. He has written or co-written more than 25 books and curriculum guides to help science teachers in the UK assess their students' deeper understanding of their subjects.

Question Everything, Think Outside The 011000100110111101111000

Image © saschapohflepp by Mike Maccarone, Learning 2030 Contributor As teachers (of science, in my case) we encourage our students to wonder (and wander) through school, through life, with a curiosity about how it all works. From the seen to the unseen, the intuitive to the head-scratching.   We aim to equip students with tools they can use to answer their own questions: make observations, collect data, develop a hypothesis, design new ways to test ideas, compare results with others.   We also challenge students to question common sense, to find innovative ways to solve problems, and to think 'outside the box'. But, are we practicing what we preach?    Skill vs. content In the age of digital information and social networking, where facts and equations are literally a click away, the need for memorizing content is far less important than it once was.   A traditional science classroom, where content lies at the center of teaching, learning, and assessment, is no longer enough.   Skills must be at the heart of the classroom and content the delivery system for those skills.   If we turn the curriculum inside out, students are more likely to think scientifically – with consideration, intent, and evidence – rather than merely remember facts.   Scientific literacy can then be more about global citizenship, giving our future leaders, voters, and activists alike the insight and intuition to think scientifically.  An outdated system Kingdom/Phylum/Class/Order/Family/Genus/Species   Red/Orange/Yellow/Green/Blue/Indigo/Violet   I can still recite them, though if you challenged me to explain the difference between Class and Order I might flee (or at least pretend to receive a phone call and check my smart-phone for the answer). Why do we still teach this way? Why are we holding on to these classification systems, these boxes?  For one thing, it's easier to test. I can ask a student to write facts in order, mark her paper, grade it, and tell if she is good or bad or just alright at 'science'. A lazy example, perhaps, but assessment has become a major player in educational reform. Without data, how can we know if we're doing anything right? Data can be a dangerous thing if we collect it improperly. Is it fair to use multiple choice questions and math problems to determine whether our students are thinking analytically? In order to truly reshape how we teach, we need to focus on how we assess. Measuring skills and growth does not have to be a numerical process. Educational data does not have to be quantitative to the extent that public schools might like and teachers' unions might loathe.   There is certainly value in assessment, especially in providing feedback to students. If we can shift our focus from easily gathered, shallow data, we can redirect our efforts towards giving students meaningful feedback that helps them improve their understanding of science and their approach to learning, regardless of where they may fall on the academic spectrum.   In order to shift the focus of schools from content to skills, we need to consider what we are asking our teachers to do and what support they need.   We also need to agree to measure student success in a more meaningful way.  Thinking outside the 011000100110111101111000* But what if we take it one step further?   What if we begin to think of science the way a scientist, and not a test-writer, would - accessing and encouraging all of the different connections to the concept we are studying when it fits best in the classroom, and not when it shows up in Chapter 12. If skills rather than content are brought into focus, if assessment is about feedback and growth rather than facts and percentages, and if sparking curiosity in students is the real nature of a science classroom, how can educators begin to think differently about what and how to teach?   For one, we should acknowledge that the lines between physics, chemistry and biology are blurry – if they exist anymore at all – and that without building in Earth and space studies, engineering and sustainability practice, and technology and its impact into our schools, we will be doing an injustice to the next generation.   For teachers this is can be an uncomfortable idea: I am trained in physics and though I have some background in other areas of science, I couldn't begin to teach a biology class effectively without help. Collaboration is certainly key in developing new, enriching, and exciting cross-curricular ways to innovate the classroom.   Image © CERDEC Students don't think in boxes unless we tell them to If these students can study the physics of a battery in connection to a circuit, explain the chemical process behind alkaline batteries, and use this as an analogy to understand the role of the central nervous system, develop an appreciation for batteries as a means of storing energy using sustainable resources, and design a system that implements a battery as a power source – well, why wait?   Why take four or five years and four or five teachers to connect the dots?   Students are ready to make connections, to be creative, to apply their knowledge to new ideas. Their lines haven't already been drawn.   We can do much, much better than boxes if we work together as teachers, within and between our schools, if we utilize technology as a global network of collaboration and resources. If we question our methods and practice what we preach.       Learning 2030 Forum Peer Advisor Mike Maccarone is the Science Curriculum Specialist (Upper School) for Avenues: The World School in New York City *“box” in binary language

‘Animating’ a Level Playing Field in Science Education

Equinox Summit: Learning 2030 focuses on the future of high school education, a future that will be influenced by the wider landscape of education issues; from informal to formal education, primary to post-secondary. In this Learning 2030 Blog entry, explore how, from a very young age, media influences the paths that students follow through their education.   by Lissa Moses, Learning 2030 Blog contributor     Image ©RDECOM In my first year teaching science, I had some mammoth goals: I wanted my students to love science, to be natural explorers, to identify as scientists and to confidently explore the world through the lens of an investigator.  I thought that once I tackled classroom management, I could accomplish my list. No problem. It wasn’t like I was teaching history, a subject plagued with sepia-toned stories of days past; I was teaching science, a subject that naturally bubbled with adventure.* Though I spent hours researching and preparing what I hoped to be life-changing demonstrations and activities, I soon learned of the all-encompassing power of media in the classroom.    The attention-holding power of video The first time I played a video, my 6th graders were transformed: a spell was cast upon them by the powers of moving images and they turned into engaged, focused, pupils for longer periods of time than I had ever experienced.  My students were engrossed and all I had done was press play.  I wish I could say there was a moment when I realized it, but really it occurred to me over time: there was a large problem with the media and I was doing my students a major disservice by not addressing it.  A lack of diversity What I hadn’t noticed was that the majority of resources depicted “the scientist” as an older Caucasian male.  I wanted my students to see themselves as scientists and yet fewer than half of my students were male, zero were old, and zero were Caucasian.  The idea for Mosa Mack: Science Detective was born: The main character is female and voiced by a former student of mine.  The goal is to shake up the way that students and teachers alike perceive scientists so that we are intentionally empowering a broad audience to participate. Science needs diversity.    Getting girls and minority students into the sciences There are dozens of studies and articles investigating why there are so few women and minorities in the STEM fields but as a teacher, you get an inside peek.  Media suggests to students, from an early age, that science isn’t for everyone. We are going to change that. Lissa Moses is a New York City-area schoolteacher, entrepreneur, and founder/creative director at Mosa Mack: Science Detective – which reached its crowdfunding goal in July – producing short animated science mysteries to empower girls and minority students in science.  *Thankfully, since that first year, I have developed a deep love of history and no longer find it painful. Apologies to offended history-lovers, but you have to admit…

Post High School Roadblock? The UK’s Great University Gamble

Equinox Summit: Learning 2030 focuses on the future of high school education, a future that will be influenced by the wider landscape of education issues; from informal to formal education, primary to post-secondary. In this Learning 2030 Blog entry, explore the post-graduation roadblocks encountered by high school students in the UK as their opportunities in higher education change, rapidly.  by Andrew McGettigan, Learning 2030 Blog Contributor In 2010, the general election in the United Kingdom brought together the Conservative party and the Liberal Democrats in a coalition government.  At that point, I had already become concerned about changes in the way money was moving around the English higher education system. The reforms proposed by this new government soon changed those circuits radically. Could you pay three times more tuition? One such reform would see the maximum tuition fee for an EU student increased from £3400 per year to £9000 per year for undergraduate study at English universities, starting in 2012.  Education is a ‘devolved’ issue in the UK, meaning that it is controlled by regional administrations. Thus, the maximum tuition policy differs in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland (where there are still no tuition fees for Scottish students). This headline-making transformation garnered the attention and drove the protests that culminated with the Parliamentary vote taken in December 2010, but the more significant move was that the higher fees were designed to replace massive cuts to the direct grants universities and colleges received from the government. (Image © Matt_Baldry)                                                                     The new model So, for those starting university since 2012 who choose to study arts, humanities, social sciences, law, business, etc. (i.e. ‘classroom subjects’), student fees are the only income the host institution receives. The chief effect of this move was to create a ‘level playing field’ for new ‘market entrants’: commercial providers who cannot receive public grants.  This market reform was explained by David Willetts, the Minister for Universities and Science, in February 2011: “Currently, one of the main barriers to alternative providers is the teaching grant we pay to publicly-funded HEIs [higher education institutions]. This enables HEIs to charge fees at a level that private providers could not match, and so gives publicly-funded HEIs a significant advantage. Our funding reforms will remove this barrier, because all HEIs will – in future – receive most of their income from students via fees. This reform, of itself, opens up the system.” Students as consumers Now, new competitive pressures are combining with the promotion of students as consumers to create a new culture of higher education: one that is meant to reform teaching.  Quality is now meant to be determined by the vector: consumer-university manager-regulator/ombudsman… This demand-led dynamic replaces the ‘vested producer interests’ of academics. Can they survive? I’m now attempting to monitor what happens to established universities when faced with this new terrain and how they are emulating the private providers.  I’m also attempting to outline what privatization might mean when we are discussing institutions such as universities, which are already independent charities, rather than state-owned entities.  This includes transformations in borrowing, off-balance sheet activity and investment strategies. In particular, recent moves on the capital markets as English universities take the first steps into public bond issuance for several years.  (Image © martie1swart)   What this might mean for other countries… From an international perspective, what may be of most interest are the income contingent repayment loans used to finance undergraduate study in the UK.  These have been touted as the solution to the graduate debt crisis in the US – ‘smart loans’ – since monthly repayments are determined by earnings not by the amount borrowed.  One of the things I continue to look at and hope to examine in greater depth is why these loans are not the technocratic dream solution that many envision. Andrew McGettigan (andrewmcgettigan.org) has taught at Middlesex University and the University of Westminster. He is the author of 'The Great University Gamble: Money, Markets and the Future of Higher Education' (Pluto, April 2013) and writes frequently on higher education for The Guardian.  

The High School of 2030 MUST Be Built From the Ground Up

  by Dr. Guy Claxton, Learning 2030 Advisor I may have missed something, but I believe that the necessary starting point for thinking about the school of the future can’t be to tinker 'away from' what we have. We need a clear vision of what young people want (and need) outside of school, in order to be able to flourish in the 21st century, and to move toward that.  Then the whole apparatus of books, timetables, buildings, teachers and exams is up for debate.  The true test of a good education It seems blindingly obvious to me that the 'valuable residues' left behind in young minds after all those years in school is not certified knowledge, but the skill and confidence to cope well when ready-made knowledge is absent or insufficient.  To paraphrase the great psychologist Jean Piaget, students need to become experts at knowing what to do when they don't know what to do. In other words, they need to love learning, and be darn good at it. Not the kind of learning that's involved in preparing for tests, rather the kind that needs curiosity, perseverance, imagination, conviviality and self-awareness.  Out with the old… School's bite-sized approach to knowledge is old hat. Carving learning up into little bits that have right answers, which can be 'delivered' in an hour and tested 'objectively' develop exactly the wrong skills for life in the 21st century.  Kids need to develop the mindset of courageous, ingenious explorers, not the ability to parrot back dead facts on demand.  They need to be able to think for themselves, think on their feet, ask good questions, challenge what they are told, imagine new possibilities and make good friends.  (Image ©moodboardphotography) What we really need to do for the learners of 2030 It’s not about 'getting more kids to college.' It’s about figuring out how to develop minds that are strong and supple enough to thrive in a tricky and turbulent world; and how to develop spirits that love to turn that real-world intelligence on to projects that are personally satisfying and socially worthwhile.  That, as far as I can see, is the only game in town. Anything less is just wallpapering over the cracks. Professor Guy Claxton is Research Director at the Centre for Real-World Learning, University of Winchester and is an Advisor for Waterloo Global Science Initiative's upcoming Equinox Summit: Learning 2030.

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