We make a difference to our children, communities and society, by guiding them and demonstrating by our actions the way we deal with situations. We lead predominantly by example. When we do not know how, we might seek information or help so we can achieve key goals, like these, below:
Most people might agree that we need to improve society’s effectiveness at dealing with some of these goals: however, by most measures, we are not improving. In fact, recent publicised studies and reports in the news suggest all of these goals are in decline. If this is true (and even if not), might it be good to improve the achievement of these goals? How can we do this? What is preventing improvement now?
People in society generally do not deliberately set out to make any of these issues worse – least of all parents. One thing is clear from society’s current performance: there is either a poverty of understanding, or a lack of knowledge about the causes (or both):
If we always think what we always thought,
We will always do what we always did, and
Always get what we always got.
So, something needs to change if anything is going to improve. Maybe we can improve our understanding & knowledge by looking at, & thinking differently about what we provide for our young people, as they grow up.
Our children’s experience of education shows mixed results. If prevention is better than cure, then it must be possible that some impediments to progress later on in life lie on the left-hand side in the diagram on the previous page – at the start of their development. Improvement at the earliest point must be quicker, easier, cheaper and so probably longer lasting and more effective. We now have more evidence available from medical research, on brain growth and development, and how learning happens at different stages of life. We should therefore change the way we think about education.
So, what can we do to think differently? From a wide variety of research in both the social and business sectors, we suggest there are 3 key changes to consider, particularly in (but not exclusively to) education:
It is right to think “if I can’t measure it, I can’t manage it.”
However, it is also right to think “If I can’t understand it, I can’t change it.”
Direction and exhortations from government lead to a one-size-fits-all solution, which is currently not of value to all (remember, the issues above are not improving). Instead, local needs should be met with appropriate, evidence-based development and improvement of practice at a local level. Improve professionalism, individuality and creativity – from the bottom up, not the top down.
It is possible to look at relevant research available, then pick the research that we think will deliver one or more of the 6 goals (above), and apply it appropriately in our context. When we apply it to all contexts, or out of context, we fail to consider local issues or individual realities.
Find young people’s interests and talents, then support and nurture them as far as possible. When there is individual purpose, other key skills – including vital literacy and numeracy – will then follow.
Forcing schools to focus excessively on maths and English for example, can ignore the needs of the individual child. There is in fact no evidence that achieving GCSE maths and English will make children successful and happy for the rest of their lives: finding what makes them tick, and helping them excel in it, will.NEXT PAGE - Our Conclusion