Is Educational Reform necessary?

Posted by Alison W on Feb 15, 2016

It seems clear that both articles fervently believe that by basing an educational system on historical values we are no longer providing a robust education for future generations and in fact risk stifling rather than inspiring them. It is no longer adequate to learn lessons from past experience, but now is the time for change, a time for new ideas and a fundamental shake up not only of our educational system but also of our educational assumptions and values.
Sir Ken Robinson hypothesises that before we are subjected to a traditional education 98% of preschool children are geniuses in the realms of divergent thinking, the ability to think outside the box, interpret a question in a number of ways giving a multitude of answers. A skill we lose with education. Why is that? Why does education today suppress something that in the past has presumably led to great innovation and discovery?
I can only assume that by teaching future generations to be answer driven we are conditioning them away from investigating and exploring the world of mathematics which potentially underpins the fascination for studying the subject. This is discussed at some length by Jo Boaler in ‘The Elephant in the classroom: Helping children to love and learn Mathematics’.
It has also been my experience, not just as a student but as a parent that society and traditional educators are more and more predisposed to label and pigeon hole our children. The ADHD epidemic, as highlighted by Sir Ken Robinson, is just the most recent symptom of a much larger problem of a one size must fit all mentality.
I believe we have generated within education an expectation to be classified, even primary children are streamed for mathematics. High achievers are celebrated and encouraged with special clubs and under achievers are singled out for special and additional tuition. This alone actively builds a certain expectation of success or failure before they have even really begun their educational journey.
Now is the time to look to our children to understand what best motivates them to learn. How are we able to tailor their educational experience to ensure they get the best and most appropriate skills to aid them in the ‘real world’. After all isn’t that why we educate our children? To ensure the future generations are independent, capable individuals.
It is difficult to conceptualise an educational system where more consideration is placed on the future educational needs of the child, where we look to the future and not to the past. But I believe that these changes need to be made at a grass roots level and that we need to look to the children and the environment within which they exist and adapt accordingly. There is too much accessibility to information in this day and age for us to dismiss it’s impact. It is no longer good enough to look back at what was and justify traditional educational systems because ‘it’s what worked for us.’


  1. ajf29
    22 February 2016

    This is a powerful piece and well expressed. An important point, that i am sure we will be challenged with throughout this course, is streaming (with winners and losers) vs mixed ability groups (holding back the more able?). Our aim is going to be to achieve the best for our pupils no matter which system we are working in.

  2. Ray
    22 February 2016

    Your piece is well reasoned but the argument for a fundamental shake up gives me some major concerns. I think that approach would result in many short term losers before getting any of the longer term gains, assuming that the projected benefits of the shake up actually materialise.

  3. pball1
    23 February 2016

    Alison, great article. I think your last paragraph sums up some of the difficulties the system has, in most cases we are placing a system upon a child before we know his or her strengths, and the problem is the system is very rigid thereafter. Having more flexibility and more subject options as the child enters secondary education may be an option, possibly via vocational subject options.

  4. Charli
    23 February 2016

    An excellent piece, Alison. Wasn’t the study about divergent thinking mind blowing? Although could there be outside factors, other than education which could be attributed to this- such as the development of higher thinking skills? I worry that the middle ground children and the quiet well-behaved children are the ones who are inevitably left behind. With the focus of intervention on high achievers or those who are struggling. Your final paragraph perfectly sums up the issues and what needs to be solved with a solution.

  5. pepsmccrea
    23 February 2016

    Strong first thinkpiece. You’re clearly not letting Sir Ken and Jo away with it that easily! Some very important (and fundamental) questions raised about traditional vs progressive values and approaches, and some powerful ‘ways forward’ explored. Keep up the great thinking!

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