Monday, November 26, 2012

Why international schools outperform those in England

I taught in an international school in Gran Canaria, Spain for 8 years. Almost very child was Spanish and they received a curriculum based on the National Curriculum in England. Apart from their daily Spanish class, they learned everything in English. We had no teaching assistants but we did have one SEN teacher who did the most brilliant job. At times the going was difficult but every child tried their best, teachers worked their hardest and when the SAT's in English and Maths were taken we never doubted that the results would be similar to if not better than those from England's primaries. And every year the children proved themselves by doing just that.

How could that be?

It's quite simple really. There isn't a magic bullet, no secret teaching method nor learning style is used. What that school and many other international schools do is to leave out all the nonsense from government and trust their teachers to do the job they know best. Teachers are left to teach, to use the curriculum in the way they see fit, to change and adapt to the learners in their class. The trust between teacher, child, SMT and parents keeps the school at its best. Teachers don't have to face mountains of paperwork, the goal posts never change half way through the year, there are no 'Ofsted' style inspections but there are inspections that promote teaching and learning, there are no ridiculous SMT demands nor league tables (schools work together), work scrutinies are used to pick out great ideas not to find negative issues, there's no mad fixation on formal assessment, no APP nor AfL as created by government but definitely a system in place that works for the children in the school, there's no marking in green and pink only marking and it doesn't involve detailed responses nor next steps. The list could go on but I'm sure you get the point.

Schools in England need to leave out the nonsense that doesn't benefit the learners, then we'll see our education system start to improve.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The 21st Century teaching and learning myths

If you happen to follow the latest Education news you will have no doubt heard of the terms '21st Century Learner', '21st Century Classroom' and '21st Century Teacher'. And if you delve a little deeper to discover just what these terms mean then you may or may not come to the same conclusion as I have, they are myths.

Throughout history, we humans have used education as a means to better ourselves, to inform ourselves about the world around us, to gain knowledge and understanding, to make sense of it all, and we have used the tools and ideas around at those times to help us achieve those aims. From a rock to a piece of flint, an animal skin to the Book of Kells, fire to the atomic bomb, tools have driven our desire to learn more and more. Without the tools I wouldn't be writing this on my iPad, nor would I be able to use the Internet to publish it. You wouldn't be able to read it as it would probably be still in my head nor would you care as you wouldn't have known about any of it in the first instance. So tools are an essential aspect of any education but that doesn't make the tools of today any better than the tools that went before them.

The general theme that runs around 21st Century this and that is that those of us not open to its virtues have already failed its 21st Century Learners. Teachers not embracing the use of the latest technological tools are described as technophobes or rejectionists. Even those that do try, cautiously, to include these new technologies in their everyday teaching are seen as slow adopters. Then there are the learners themselves who have been described as *'digital natives' who are stuck in 19th Century classrooms surrounded by the inept technophobes and their ageing technology.

'How can they possibly learn!'

Well, they do. We are resilient beings and just like our ancestors we want to make sense of the world around us, to discover, to push ourselves, to use this knowledge to make connections and ask more questions. The tools we have today connect us to more knowledge and resources than ever before but having access to these tools doesn't make us 21st Century Learners or Teachers. 

Learners will continue to learn whether they have their fingers on a digitally connected universe of information or not. What we should really be discussing is the provision of a curriculum fit for a new century. Only after that has been established may we even begin to start realising the possibility of 21st Century learning and teaching.

*Don't get me started on 'digital natives', what a pile of nonsense that one is.