Saturday, June 20, 2009

What are we teaching in schools?

Two very interesting comment pieces appeared in today's Irish Times. The editorial commented on the draft report by the National Economic and Social Forum on the connection between school literacy levels and social exclusion and inside, a piece by Breda O'Brien (link above) on creativity and second level education. It is interesting to connect the two pieces.
As a society we have a responsibility to prepare young people for the future - this is what we expect of our education system - but we cannot possibly know what the future has in store. As the educational philosopher John Dewey put it - the best we can do is to teach children how to experience the present to its maximum extent.
Our children are poorly served by an archaic education system where state exams focus on selective recall and pure luck. Notice that we have the State Exams Commission not the 'educational assessment' commission indicating that they are only concerned with 'exams' one form of educational assessment. This is like an orchestra that can play any music as long as it is composed by Mozart!
Future oriented skills such as critical thinking, inquiry, creativity and collaboration are largely undervalued in the present school system. Until we reform the pedagogy of schooling and assessment we will continue to suffer the consequences of poor literacy levels. And large numbers of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds will continue to face a future on the margins of society.