Sunday, 20 September 2009

The depersonalisation of education

As a teacher, I firmly believe that the best way to get the most from children is to really get to know them as individuals. As a parent, such an intimate professional knowledge of what makes my child tick is the least that I expect. Indeed, I suspect that even this government has the same understanding given the manner in which they press the idea that 'every child matters'. However, endless meddling and bureaucratisation of education have led to a very different state of affairs.

Success is now measured purely in terms of A-C pass rates at secondary level. To a degree I understand this. After all, if children leave school with more qualifications then they have a greater chance to pursue a successful future. However, the measure of success is not pure and the outcomes are rendered unreliable due to consistent dumbing down of standards, a pretence of equivalence between subjects of massively different nature and the micro management of process. All of this is effectively enforced by a politicised OfSTED whose assessment criteria now include not just an assessment of outcome but of process. This has led effectively to a state approved methodology in the classroom.

The methodology is not without its merits. After all, objective focussed teaching and learning are surely desirable when properly applied. However, too many teachers, encouraged by an inflexible orthodoxy, teach to objectives regardless of the children in front of them. Due to the centralised expectations placed upon them, teachers are increasingly strait-jacketed by their own lesson plans - having little regard for the particular needs of the individuals in front of them. In dwindling supply are the truly individual teachers who can inspire and impart knowledge (where the curriculum has not removed it) on the basis of their own professional skills. To be such a teacher now is to take a risk and to be labelled as some sort of pedagogical fifth columnist. Nanny knows best how to teach children and woe betide anybody who departs from the approved Whitehall methods.

Of course all of this, in turn, creates a massive bureaucracy. Bureaucrats to advise the teachers, others to montior they are teaching as they are instructed, others to monitor the monitors.....

Education in the state sector has become an extension of central government with the civil servants the stasi of the system. Your child is but a number on the league tables. The classroom has become a large Orwellian farm where timid shepherds lead timid animals. The problem is that the farm is led by a remote and uncaring corporation that is leading its lambs to the slaughter, rather than fattening them up to deal with the world outside the farm.


  1. In a way, I cannot make a comment on this because it is so self-evidently true and so needs to be said. It is wonderful to read that others think like I do. Such blogs as these restore one's sanity. Keep up the good work, Mr Chips!

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