Education is top of the agenda not just in New Zealand but all over the world.
Reforms (or as I like to call them ‘deforms’) are being pushed through, and once a reform hits the USA, it hits the UK, and sooner or later Aotearoa catches up. So, in my bid to keep my beady eye on the GERM (global education reform movement), I read a lot of what happens in the UK.
In good old Blighty, the political parties are in the midst of a bitch-fest on a scale last seen on Glee, with accusations flying back and forth between MPs, and even the exchange of terse letters .(You remember those, right? They are texts but on paper).
It’s all rather riveting, to be honest, and would be funny if it weren’t for the fact that it’s children’s learning that is being used in this political football match.
Anyhoo, I was particularly interested in this piece by Tristram Hunt. Dr Hunt is a UK Labour Party MP, a broadcaster, and an historian that lectures on Modern British History at Queen Mary, University of London.
This week the Minister of Education has been arguing that Dr Hunt should not teach lessons in his local school as he is not a qualified teacher. Now this intrigued me as it speaks to questions being asked in Aotearoa, too. So I read Mr Hunt’s response to Mr Gove with interest.
Here it is for you to ponder:
When my son has a fever, I sometimes give him a bit of Calpol; this doesn’t make me a doctor. Sometimes I take a class on Stoke and the industrial revolution; this doesn’t make me a teacher.
Indeed, every time I enter the classroom I am more and more convinced of the need for well-trained and qualified classroom teachers as they manage all the modern demands of pedagogy, scholarship, learning, inspiration, empathy, analysis and sheer bloody time-management. The success of the Finnish education system is based precisely on a highly motivated and qualified teaching profession.
But rather than encouraging MPs to spend more time in the classroom, Gove wants to pillory public representatives who are passionate about schooling.
So be it. The Labour party takes a different view. We will not stand in the way of civic minded experts speaking in schools, be they from politics, the arts, science or industry. Indeed, we want more of it.
This is also a matter of social justice. While the likes of Eton College and St Paul’s can enjoy an endless caravan of high-profile speakers, this is not the case in other schools around the country. As a result, their children’s horizons can be lowered and their career options stunted, and potential unfulfilled.
So, we wholeheartedly support brilliant initiatives such as Future First, which exposes people to inspiring professionals as part of careers education, or Teach First’s Every Child Can campaign, which attracts high-profile business leaders to teach a one-off lesson.
We are also very open to allowing new talent into our school system. Teach First, which was set up under the last Labour government, has demonstrated the success of attracting high-performing graduates into our most challenging schools.
But exposing our schoolchildren to as many outside speakers and ideas as possible (such as BBC business editor Robert Peston’s excellent Speaker for Schools programme) is a very different issue from that of raising professional standards for full-time, permanent teachers. On this our message is clear – at the next election Labour will offer what parents want: high-quality, fully qualified teachers in every classroom.
As Jacques Barzun, the great American philosopher of education once said, “Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition.” The Labour party has not lost its regard. And if my local heads let me, I’ll be back at the chalk-face. Source.
Now, I have to make it clear that I’m not at all convinced yet that the UK Labour party and I are on precisely the same page regarding education policy. but what Dr Hunt said sits well with me.
Teachers should be educated professionals, planning lessons, and guiding students’ learning with a full and comprehensive understanding of pedagogy.
I love space and could teach a good unit about it at primary level, but holy moly how fabulous to have someone from Carter Observatory or an amateur astronomer or a postgrad come in and share their knowledge, too.
I should note that many teachers already invite in experts, but wouldn’t it be fabulous if it were done more – much, much more? Wouldn’t it be great if experts knew they were welcome and felt welcome to offer their voluntary services for a lecture here, an experiment there?
Surely this is the best possible scenario? Well trained, respected, professional teachers inspiring students alongside visiting experts.
Think TED for schools.
What do you think?