Contemporary education – what it is and what it should be

I’ve been going through some boxes which have been gathering dust in my garage (as I’m prone to do over Summer holidays) and have stumbled upon something which has me a little sad, a little perplexed and, if truth be told, a little angry.

It’s an essay I wrote in the early stages of my Masters of Education (Educational Technology) which I started in my 2nd year of teaching, 8 years ago. The topic? What role should technology play in contemporary education. However, more than just a discussion of technology, it was a lot more a discussion about contemporary education itself – the role of education in the present day, how it manifested itself in classrooms around the world, what role teachers played in all of that and what educational researchers, commentators and futurists thought of it all.

My initial smiles as I reminisced turned into a haunting realisation that this essay contained all the ingredients of what education could and should be vs what it was. And that none of this has changed since 2007. Or, really, any time in the 1800s.

Now I feel a little disheartened as well as being a bit angry. At myself mostly. I remember the person who wrote this essay – full of idealism, enthusiasm and a solid and unshakeable belief that we could change the path of education in general. I remember being so excited at all the different ideas and possibilities I was exposed to during my Masters study and where such knowledge and innovation could take education into the future. So when exactly did I sell out and go along the with the flow?

This takes me back to a life-changing presentation from Misty Adoniou earlier this year encouraging us to stage a revolution (albeit without a t-shirt and untelevised) where teachers stand up for what we know is right in education and push back against trends that aren’t in the best interests of the students we have in front of us. Particularly trends which are started by politicians and those who have a vested commercial interest. And, for me, this does include researchers who are in the pockets of big education businesses. I understand that research needs an outlet for dissemination and financial backing but wonder about those who choose to go down strictly commercial pathways rather than allowing their research to reach the most students possible, without the massive price tags of the educational publishing marketplace.

Next year begins a new chapter for me – I’m returning to the classroom after 3 years of visiting them as a literacy coach. I think I owe it to myself, my students, my colleagues and the profession in general to spend the rest of my holidays stoking the fire of the teacher ‘I used to be’ and start the year full of idealism, enthusiasm and that solid and unshakeable belief that we can (and should) change the path of education. My apologies if I come across as a little bolshy – Misty started it 🙂

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2 thoughts on “Contemporary education – what it is and what it should be

  1. I am sure many educators would stand right by you with this post Gillian. Your second last paragraph highlights an important truth for education drivers. It is this – Education is a career. For some educators, (I include here researchers, whether they are actual teachers or not), it is an academic career and/or an opportunity to earn a living, earn a reputation or whatever. For other educators, while, sure, they likewise earn a living from education, they are genuinely focused upon what is most important … improving education experiences for children. It is the latter group who should be driving change. Unfortunately, they are often the ones who do not feel empowered to do so. This is not so.

    Child focused educators working with other child focused educators can powerfully influence each other. You already know this. https://macgirl19.wordpress.com/2015/06/09/leading-schools-in-a-digital-age/

    • Thanks Alan. You’re right, it is something I already know, just seem to need a kick back in the right direction from time to time. I’m really hoping a return to the classroom will help ground me again 🙂

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