Saturday, 12 September 2009

Education Theories

Some people suggest that home educating your child is nothing more than a dangerous experiment.

I was in the first school year to take GCSEs and I can tell you, we felt like guinea pigs. Since then children across the country have been subjected to educational experimentation in the form of the national curriculum, SATs, literacy and numeracy hours, and goodness knows what else. SATs are going to be scrapped, maybe GCSEs will be next, who knows. Governments have always tinkered with education, and if the current one is anything to go by, they will continue to do so until they have completely ruined it for everyone.

I was lucky enough not to have to suffer the national curriculum, and I'm very glad. I had a lot of different teachers; some were good, some were absolutely awful. The ones that stick in my mind, were the ones who had a passion for their subject, who made lessons their own. I was fortunate enough to experience the same subject addressed differently by many different people - my father was in the forces, school changes and different teachers were a part of life.

Had the national curriculum been in place during my childhood I would have been guaranteed never to miss a thing in my school changes, because the tabling of subjects would not have been left to the individual teachers. The content of the lessons would have been very similar where ever I was. Would that have been a good thing? Personally, I don't think so. I'm trying to think where I read the analogy that springs to mind. It went something like this:

The national curriculum is like a fast food *restaurant* - you get the same food, delivered in the same way, for the same price, at every one of the company's establishments. Where ever you go in the world, if you go along to one of these establishments you know exactly what you are going to get.

Now compare it to a restaurant in the Michelin Guide; you never know what you're going to get, but you know it's going to be good.

IMO education should endeavour to belong to the Michelin Guide rather than the fast food chain.

The human race has been getting along OK for thousands of years. We've seen the rise and fall of civilisations. We've seen incredible creations and feats of human ingenuity all around the world. And all without a national curriculum in sight! There are so many differing theories about what constitutes a good education, it's something people have debated for millenia. If great philosophers can disagree, what on earth makes us think that suddenly, at the tail end of the 20th century, a group of politicians and civil servants had an epiphany?

Apparently teacher training used to include learning about different educational theories. These days it's all about classroom management. I brought this up with Ian McGimpsey of the RSA at a recent conference I spoke at. He agreed that it is a problem newly qualified teachers face when taking up posts. The government talks about personalised learning, and other buzz words, but when we have teachers who have themselves known nothing but the national curriculum, and who have never heard of the many and varied theories of education, how on earth can we get back to an education system that is more on a par with Michelin than MacDonalds?

The national curriculum has been the biggest, mass educational experiment since the introduction of compulsory education back in 1870, and it has failed (IMO they both have but that's another issue). Independent education, of which home education is one facet, has steadfastly stayed away from the national curriculum, thank goodness!

I'm not a teacher, yet I would wager I have more education theory books on my bookshelves than most teachers. Home educators are keeping these theories alive because they work, they have been proven to work, often over thousands of years! No, we're not the ones conducting a dangerous experiment.

If the current government gets it's way we are doomed to follow along this failing path; that would be criminal, and it must not happen. Freedom in education is so important, please help us to stop it from going the way of the dinosaurs.


  1. Absolutely superb post Tech, love the analogy. No we are certainly not the ones conducting the dangerous experiment, meanwhile the government continues to do nothing else but inflict dangerous experiments on us to individual and societal detriment.

  2. I like your analogy of the NC as a fast food chain. A good school system would be like a restaurant district, where you can choose the type of food, find a place with a good cook, and select from the current menu, which would vary from time to time; and home education would be your own kitchen, where the ingredients and recipes are infinitely variable. (And, ideally, where no one would come knocking on your door telling you you have to eat brussels sprouts twice a week and if your white sauce doesn't show regular progress your kitchen will be closed down.)

  3. Fantastic Your Techness, makes perfect sense