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« 3rd March 2007. A good day. | Main | Over on the motorblog »

Random thoughts on education

I've had another post on education floating round inside my head for a week or so now, and it just doesn't seem to want to form itself into a coherent whole. So I'm just going to write it down as a list of points and see what happens. Either it will start to make some sense or it will remain as random thoughts. You should be able to work out which it was.

  • Education should be tailored to the consumer. This isn't really a requirement for the 21st century so much as what a good education should be. Everyone is different and will get something different out of the education process.
  • Why do children (or adults, for that matter) need to go and listen to someone talking in order to get an education? Does education need to be formal in the age of Google? How much can you teach yourself? If, as Oakeshott said, education is a conversation, then isn't the internet just a ruddy great school?
  • When you think about it, how much do you actually learn from sitting listening to someone anyway? If it's in any way a difficult subject, a momentary lapse in concentration can lead to you losing the thread and the whole thing becomes a waste of time.
  • What should we teach everyone? I would argue literacy and numeracy and nothing much else. The rest depends on the child's interests and abilities. The brightest will need a grounding in the "best of all that has been known" (or whatever the saying is). Many others would be better off out of the school environment learning a trade.
  • We are probably still going to need schools, if only because of their childcare role. Parents are all out working and either don't want to or can't educate their children themselves. So if someone else is doing the education how do we ensure that they provide a learning experience that is tailored to the child? Can they actually acheive this though?
  • If schools can provide a tailored education, doesn't that take some of the heat out of the debate over selective schools? 
  • Brian Micklethwait posted a link to a debate about the speed of change in the modern world and how this affects education. I think we can overdo this. Much of what we want to impart in schools is stuff that doesn't change quickly. History, mathematics, geography, amd critical thought for example. Techies get hung up on the pace of change, but this is something that is mainly relevant to their subject. Not all jobs in the future will be tech jobs. Not all will change quickly.
  • Knowledge is not linear. It's more like a network. There are lots of different routes to explore, lots of tangents to go off at.That's what makes learning fun, and it's why the linear approach of traditional schooling turns so many children off.
  • Could e-learning be a way forward? Wouldn't it be better for child a to watch an online lecture about quadratic equations, while child B did an online assessment about erosion in the Gobi desert (or whatever interested either of them), rather than having them both sleep through a French class? What then, is the role of the teacher? Childminder?
It's all very confusing, but the education system is in such a state, I'm sure something dramatic will happen in the next ten years. One to watch.

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