Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Defining and Designing World-Class Education (Part 4)

In the previous series of posts I have summarised and commented briefly on a paper by Yong Zhao for the Centre for Strategic Education (CSE). Zhao has argued that much effort in the field of education reform is misdirected, as efforts to standardise education and raise test score levels fail to understand the need for education to prepare young people for the world in which they will live. This world is one where the basic, routine and standard skills that are the centrepiece of factory-model education are not enough. In addition, this standardisation diminishes the creative and diverse capacity of the individual. An education appropriate to the demands of the age is an education that cultivates entrepreneurship, creativity and confidence. This final post summarises the hallmarks that Zhao suggests are the signs of truly world-class education.

The three essential ingredients of this education are: 

  • autonomy, in that students will become more confident, curious and creative as they are supported and encouraged to take ownership of their learning, including the content - the 'what' - of their education;
  • product-oriented learning, whereby students shift from being recipient and consumer of knowledge/content and becomes creator and provider. Entrepreneurship is created when questions are asked and solutions sought - rather than seeking to identify already known answers to predetermined and artificial problems. Product-oriented learning, through multiple drafts and peer reviews, helps  the learner to develop resilience and perseverance before failure and to learn about the importance of discipline and commitment;
  • globalised learning, whereby learning is embodied in networks and the collaboration, partnership and connections that arise from engaging with the wider world, not just those gathered within the walls of the classroom.
From these three ingredients, Zhao points to a number of indicators of world-class education. These indicators comprise a confronting (for a school leader) series of questions, some of which are listed below.
  • Do students have a voice in governance and school environments? Are they involved in selecting and evaluating staff? Do they have a role in developing rules?
  • How broad is the range of courses offered? To what degree can students choose their own programs
  • Does each student have an adult advisor or coach?
  • What products or services have been created by students?
  • Is there an infrastructure for students to develop, display or market products and services?
  • Is there a process and culture of multiple drafts and review of products
  • In what ways is the school unique? In what ways does it build on its unique strengths?
  • How many international partners does the school have?
  • To what extent does the school utilise international resources?
  • What opportunities are available for students to engage in cross-cultural interactions?
No shortage of issues raised there! To close with a quotation from Zhao's conclusion

This paper is really about the human dimensions. It is about respecting children as human beings and about supporting, not suppressing, the passion, curiosity and talent. If schools can do just that, our children will become global, creative and entrepreneurial.

No comments:

Post a Comment