Task 1 – ‘Teacher, why are we learning this?’

Posted by Fintan, Uncategorized on Feb 16, 2016

The first thing that struck me on watching Robinson’s video ‘Changing Education Paradigms’ was his first question: ‘How do we educate our children to take their place in the economies of the 21st century?’ It made me question why it is we educate people at all. Is it simply to get a job? Or is learning a reason in and of itself? Growing up, I was made to believe that a good education was the pathway to a successful career. At the same time, I’ve always been aware of this idealistic view of schools and universities as these prestigious places of learning where people went to pursue knowledge as an end in itself. If education is the former reason, then can education simply be defined as job training? If it is the latter, then is it so vital to people’s everyday lives that they receive an education?

Robinson and Boaler both point out the many flaws in our education system and the teaching of math, but I wonder if the changes that they propose are feasible. I agree with Robinson about how children learn at different rates, yet we divide them according to age. Does that mean that a young talented student would progress through the education system faster than an older, less able student? A young, talented, student might demonstrate great ability in that particular subject, but they might not demonstrate the maturity to be able to work in an environment with older students. An older, less able student might lose confidence in their own ability if they’re placed with students younger than themselves. Robinson continues by mentioning that there are students that also learn better at different times of the day, in groups or alone, but is it possible to build an education system that appeals to all these ways of learning? I think that the other suggestions proposed by Robinson and Boaler would be more successful. Mathematicians (and many other professionals) often collaborate on work, so an increase in group work in the classroom would be good  preparation for students. Students could spend more time working together on longer more challenging problems rather than spending an entire class mechanically completing exercises. Robinson highlights the fact that the current generation of young people are surrounded by more stimuli than any other generation before them, so if they are to learn anything, they need something more than just doing calculations to get them interested in the subject.

Robinson also discusses the notion of academic/non-academic that is now prevalent in public education. Academia, academic training and learning are elevated in our society while non-academia is somehow deemed less important. It almost seems as if we are being conditioned into thinking that we can only be successful if academia or some kind of formal education has had an involvement in our lives. If it has not, then we must be of low intelligence and working in some low skilled job. Of course, academia has a place in our society, but our public education system should expand to incorporate all kinds of intelligences and skills and not just focus on one.


  1. pball1
    21 February 2016

    Good piece Fintan, I think the current system is incredibly rigid however cost constraints are significant in providing a solution. If only we could tailor to each individual and we would have the perfect system, In today’s world a job for life is no longer applicable and the need for adaptation is huge. It is funny that when I have come across people who did not go to University, a common response is “I went to the University of life!!”. And when assessing that many successful entrepreneurs will have limited education also adds fuel to the fire….an endless debate!!

  2. Charli
    22 February 2016

    You make a really great point about the grouping of classes by age here, Fintan. There’s also the practicalities side of things. I really like your ideas and questions about why do we educate- you’ve really made me think. Do we need to tailor education to become job training or to we need to adapt our views of the value educating? I also like your points on group work- I think too many teachers are worried about everything that could go wrong with group work that they are adverse to starting it- which makes your expectation less clear for students if you do have a go and they are more likely to mess around!! Great piece Fintan!

  3. Ray
    22 February 2016

    I liked your questioning around whether education is primarily a form of job training or the pursuit of knowledge for its’ own sake. I agree with your point that education should incorporate all levels of intelligence and skills.

  4. pepsmccrea
    23 February 2016

    Very strong first thinkpiece. You’ve clearly engaged with the ideas presented, and have immediately begun to look at them in a balanced way (exploring both their weakness and strengths). Lots of great questions generated too. Keep up the good writing!

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