Oh look this coin has two sides!

Posted by Stephen on Dec 1, 2015

What are we really arguing about?

Is it about how to fix education or is it how to patch the current system?

Every week there is a new idea which highlights some yet unthought of, to me, issue with education. An idea one week is often criticised the next if not even the same week. The issue appears to me that we are trying to create a one size fits all educational system. The Khan academy/the Japanese system/Shanghai Maths. For each and everyone one of these and every other option I am sure I could create a pros and cons list that could extend indefinitely.

Clearly there are better ways and worse ways to approach things and there are some constant positive ideas to take away. However taking a system which is considered successful and transplanting it in to another country is patently ludicrous. In hospitals transplants work but are not always successful and require a lot of treatment and don’t always succeed. We don’t expect all teachers to teach the same way and we shouldn’t expect all countries to teach the same way.

Is the way maths is taught going to be the way we teach drama? I should hope not. However if we can instill in teachers good practices then trust them to do the job we have asked them and taught them to do. It might seem crazy but maybe it will work. That isnt to say we should not do away with attempting to improve each individual teacher but how boring would it be if we were all taught by an “ideal teacher clone”.

The fact that I am unable to stay on topic is probably due to a lack of sleep and a build up of frustrations. There are so many paths open to us to teach and shutting any individual path off is laughable. We mock those who attempt to use group work one minute the next we contemplate that it might be the solution, we contemplate how Khan can be the reformer of education and bring it to the masses and the next we criticise him for not being an educator. We seem to expect too much from any individual, teacher or reformer.
Every video I have watched tells me there is something wrong with educations current state. However what is wrong and what is right is obviously not clear. Realistically a total educational reform is required but what is best practice now may be considered laughable in 20 years time. As such a flexible approach is needed, this should be possible as we are approaching a tipping point where the internet and other resources allow for this to happen. However knowing how resistant people are to change and knowing the government any change will be done badly and will therefore be criticised.

Much as we suggest that we create an environment where students investigate (Dan Meyer) and inquire (Blair) and ensure there is a relational and instrumental understanding (Skemp/Willingham) perhaps we need to do so to begin to understand and make the right changes.

Why should we expect this from our students and not ourselves?


  1. rajchopra
    6 December 2015

    The kidney transplant analogy is an interesting one, and suggesting that it is “patently ludicrous” is a bold statement to make.
    Perhaps the comment about lack of sleep can be taken out, it doesn’t add to the debate.

  2. Rhys
    6 December 2015

    I have to agree with lots of the points that you raised. Especially how you talked about how each week a different video picks holes in the education system. Does this mean the whole system needs reforming? Or are the videos all talking about the same problems just from a different angle?

  3. pepsmccrea
    7 December 2015

    I’m not 100% sure what your point is here. Do you think that current practice in the UK doesn’t have anything to learn from other countries? Do you think we should stop thinking about the pros and cons of different ideas?

    You say: ‘if we can instil in teachers good practices then trust them to do the job we have asked them and taught them to do’ then it might work, but who gets to decide which ones are the ‘good’ ones?

    Debate is welcomed. Keep it coming. Just try to be clear about your argument.

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