Last week the IOE celebrated Professor Michael Young’s 50 years at the IOE and the publication of a festschrift in his honour. I was one of a number of colleagues asked to speak at the event. Having cancelled my flight to Australia to do so I thought I would be able to say that, as the result of the fare penalty, I was the only person who had actually paid to be there. But in fact there were other people attending from overseas, which just goes to show the high esteem in which Michael is held throughout the world.
I haven’t known Michael quite 50 years – more like 49. It would have been in October 1968 when I arrived at the IOE as a PGCE student training to be a history teacher, and Michael was one of a group of sociologists who inspired me to see my own future as a sociologist. His particular contribution was in encouraging us to question much of (more…)
Michael Young and David Lambert
Each curriculum subject contains a different way of understanding the world. Access to this ‘powerful knowledge’ for every pupil should form the basis for any curriculum. This is the central argument of our new book, Knowledge and the Future School: Curriculum and Social Justice, which we have written in collaboration with secondary headteacher Carolyn Roberts and former head Martin Roberts.
The book engages directly with and moves beyond the increasingly sterile debate between the former Secretary of State, Michael Gove, with his ticklists of facts, and those of his vociferous antagonists in the education community who argue that process is far more important than content. (more…)
I welcome John White’s plan to make contact with Chinese educators uneasy about their ‘success’ on the PISA League Tables and look forward to his next IOE blog reporting his discussions.
However, the fact that the headmaster of Eton attacks our examination system as archaic – something virtually everyone working in the public sector of education knows all too well – is hardly news. What really would be news would be if Eton decided to stop entering pupils for any public examinations until the system was reformed. Then, especially if a number of the other elite schools followed suit, we might get a Royal Commission with the remit to examine both why such an anti-educational system of examinations had emerged and what might be the alternatives.
No complex modern education system could exist without some form of examination system. Furthermore, it should be as fair as possible as a guide to those who have to select students for either jobs or university places and at the same time provide reliable feedback to teachers and students about their achievements.
The problem is that the relationships between public examinations, the curriculum (which defines the purposes of education), and the professional work of teachers, have become grossly distorted. Instead of examinations guiding teachers and students and providing feedback on the curriculum, they have come to replace the curriculum in deciding what is taught and how, and to be a major control force over teachers’ pedagogy and student learning. Taken to its limits, this turns teachers into technicians and all but the very highest achieving students into exam fodder, those that do not give up.
Unless any debate about our examination system begins with asking how we can shift towards a curriculum-led rather than an examination-led system, critiques, such as that of Eton’s headmaster, whose school sits at the pinnacle of the system he depicts as ‘archaic’, only deflect us from tackling its fundamental problems.