Thursday, October 22, 2009

State of Affairs of Educational Outcomes - TEP09

The Education Project conference got underway with a 'debate' style of 5 minute addresses on the subject of "State of Affairs of Educational Outcomes".
The starter questions given were:
  • Why donʼt outcomes measurements tell the full story?
  • Why are educational levels below what we expect?
  • Why have so many reform programmes that promised results not had the desired effect?
Following are couple of points from each speaker that grabbed my attention...

Tony Wagner - speaking about 21st century learners
  • All students need new skills, skills we do not know how to teach or test.
  • "Reinventing education for the 21st Century is the conversation I hope we will be having over these next two days".
Bahram Bekhradnia - speaking about Universities.
  • Governments need high class universities to achieve modern knowledge societies.
  • Universities need to be free and have good governance. Autonomous universities are the best !
  • Need quality and relevance. Some of the best graduates are qualified in subjects such as drama.
  • Universities are not there to produce oven-ready graduates for the work force!
Dr Mona Mourshed - speaking from a research perspective
  • 3 Trillion dollars is going into education across the OECD yet when you look at student outcomes over the last decade they have hardly moved! How can this be?
  • Classroom size doesn't work and research shows it is not important! Reducing class size is the most expensive reform. It has devalued teaching by making more teachers. It has created worse pre-service training by spreading the budget out further.
  • Students spend 60% of their time out of school. Technology has the power to unleash the potential of the student because they have access to learning during the 60% time.
Alan Blankstein
  • If assessment is to be precise it will be narrow. There needs to be a trade off.
  • The system delivers what it is designed to. If we want to alter the system and the outcomes of the sytem, we need to start with the readiness of the child - which may even be whether or not they have eaten. Change is technically simple but socially complex (quoting Michael Fullen).
  • School leaders need to emphasise positive deviance. Identify excellence and help to spread it. Positive deviance should become the norm.
Dr Frank J. Macchiarola
  • In education there is a difference between perception and reality. People inside education see it one way. People outside education see it differently.
  • We need to look at education as if the children in the school are our own.
  • We all have to invest in education. The school can't do it all.
  • We need schools in partnership with society. Our children need faith, belief, high expectations and love.
Andreas Schleicher - speaking via video
  • Tests are no longer sufficient to tell whether children are successful. Application of knowledge is far more important. Kids need to be able to diagnose, create, and communicate.
  • Strong foundation in base subjects is still very important. But after that comes what you can do with it.
  • We can't always break things down into bits to solve problems. We must be able to analyse, synthesise etc.
  • We need to focus on key competencies, not just build a knowledge base.
Following these presentation statements, the debate revolved mainly around class size issues, pre-service training and work conditions. One point raised strongly from the floor was, "What style of teaching was taking place when researchers concluded class size doesn't matter?" Was it a very knowledge, content, didactic approach? Or was it Inquiry driven classrooms?

Conclusion: While Dr Mourshed may have raised the most controversy with her comments over class size, it was her statements about the 60% of student life occuring outside the classroom that were constantly picked up on over the rest of the conference. Whether it was people talking about community based programmes or the eLearning crowd talking about technology making learning accessible 24/7, many of the speakers reinforced
"the solution to the questions posed at the beginning lies in being far more productive with the 60% time".