“…we have to work globally to stop the accreditation tail wagging the learning dog” – now that’s a quote to use and an idea to ponder.

John Connell is a Scottish blogger who I consider to be a mentor of mine. He thinks deeply about education and the direction we are headed in. I always feel  enriched after reading his blog; he writes well about important issues facing education. He was kind enough to leave a comment on my previous post which I think is worth highlighting in full. Once again he’s made me think; 

The core issue is as you describe:

“……in the light of the stringent exam structure that exists in our senior years of high school. The argument that was presented suggested that our parent community wanted high enter scores. Our job at those year levels was to get our students through the curriculum and prepare them for 700 word essays, and it wasn’t helping them to have them learn how to collaborate with students from around the world. ”

I believe that such arguments, while inevitable, need to be tested to destruction. I have found over the years I have worked in education that the estimation of parental views held by too many teachers is, at the very least, stereotypical, and too often, rather patronising. I just wonder what would be the outcome if you (ie Toorak College) were able to find a way to test the depth and nuance of parental views on these issues.

Of course, parents want the best for their children, and they want to ensure that they have the greatest chance possible to make progress in life. I know from our chat over dinner a few weeks ago that you want the same for your own kids as my wife and I want for ours.

BUT – I am equally sure that most thoughtful parents are far more aware than is generally recognized in education of the need to find a reasonable balance between the demands of accreditation and entry to higher education, and the demands that life in all its complexity will place on our kids as they face the future. Too many teachers prefer to see parental views as one-dimensional and reductive in nature – I would challenge them to prove that their view is genuinely reflective of the actual views of the parent body.

So, I just wonder what the outcome would be if you could find a way – through straight talking and honest communication – to explain the logic and the humanity behind the kinds of messages we are trying so hard to build into the education systems for today and tomorrow. I am willing to bet that many more parents would express agreement with such views (while still wanting their kids to get what they need to go where they want to go) than the more patronising teachers realise.

Ultimately, I think that teachers and parents face the same dilemmas to an extent that we often fail to recognize. Why not test it? We might find that we can move forward together – teachers, parents, students – to find the ways and means to give our kids access to both realities.

Beyond that, of course, we have to work globally to stop the accreditation tail wagging the learning dog – but that is in the long term. In the short term, why not work towards finding a joint understanding between teachers and parents of the very real issues impinging on schooling, and impinging on the lives of our kids.

I am one of the parents at my school. My daughter began Yr Seven this year. What do I want for her? For me, it’s not about the highest possible entry score to get into University; it’s about development of the whole person and preparing her for the world she is going to be entering as an adult. Perhaps we do need to ‘test to destruction’ our assumption that parents are focused on university entrance scores and seek their clarification about what they want for their children? Perhaps they are unaware of the changing nature of the workforce and the types of skills that will be valued by employers of the future? There’s no doubt parent education is going to be necessary to assist them in understanding our motivations, but perhaps they get it already and we’re just underestimating them? 

Thanks for visiting John – I value your input and your ability to provoke further thinking.

(and don’t you just love that line, ‘we have to work globally to stop the accreditation tail wagging the learning dog’. Going to have to use that some time!!) 


One Reply to ““…we have to work globally to stop the accreditation tail wagging the learning dog” – now that’s a quote to use and an idea to ponder.”

  1. Jenny (and John), that’s such a satisfying post – so much to think about, so much material for discussion.
    The parent/teacher issue is an important one. Sometimes they are not always seen as being on the same team with the same goal in mind, but why not? And surely, their separateness is one of the reasons, the fact that they often only come together for parent/teacher interviews or when there’s trouble. Some schools have started to think about ‘community’, but more could be done to secure a relationship.

    As far as what parents want for their children – I’ve just revisited the Montessori education online; watched a couple of videos. Both my sons had a preschool Montessori education before going mainstream in primary school. I love so much about Montessori, but the reason I chose it in the first place was because I looked at how young children naturally loved to learn and initiated their own learning, then I looked at the middle years students I was teaching – often disengaged with traditional classroom teaching – and I thought: something is not right. I desperately wanted my children NOT to lose touch with that fire within them that lit up so many areas of learning.
    Yes, I care about whether they get the marks to enable them to go on with their tertiary learning, but more than this, I want them to be empowered, independent thinkers and lifelong learners, part of the local and global community, taking responsibility, solving problems, making decisions, caring about people and the environment, connecting with others.
    If these ideals are at the base of our desire to integrate new technologies into teaching and learning, then we can honestly say that we use them as tools to enable new ways of lifting off the page of a textbook and into a global world of limitless possibilties and connection.

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