There is one notion of the education system that really frustrates me at moment, the focus on exam targets as a key success indicator.
We appear to have created factories, focused on meeting the latest targets that have been set by the grand paymaster generals in Government at the time. The obsession of those seeking political gain making media seeking soundbites does not help the profession, just adding to the long term confusion about where education is heading.
I am not for one minute saying that education should not change and everything is perfect. Quite simply, it's not! However despite all the curriculum changes there appears to be this constant agenda that an education establishment and ultimately teacher will be judged on the results that are achieved.
The critics of the profession will no doubt argue that such targets are needed to “drive up standards”. I personally wonder what they think would happen without such targets? Do they seriously think classrooms would be full of teachers just baby sitting children playing about? If so, then they are seriously naive as teachers tend to go into the profession to teach and and enhance the lives of the students they teach.
The visit of Ofsted is one that many schools fear. There is a strong belief that the outcome of any inspection is predetermined by the exam data that a school achieves. Again, we come back to exam data and the reason why schools need to focus on achieving success in this area. It is so much easier to attract students through the door with a good Ofsted judgement and with more students, comes the all important increase in funding.
Yet, despite all this the politicians and Department for Education produce edicts regarding the wider purpose of education and how education needs to produce students with a wider skill set to enter the competitive and congested world of work. If this is so important, why are schools not measured in the number of students who leave and secure employment? Why are the success criteria so academically focused?
This focus on academic success has a real impact on learning one of life's most important lessons; failure. It appears this is an emotion and experience that is now a dirty word in the world of education. Why?
Failure should be something that everyone has the chance of experiencing. It is one of those lessons in life that we have to learn from. Some learn a harder lesson than others. However once we have tasted failure, most of us never want to return to this point. Failure also makes success all the more attractive to achieve, something that makes celebrating success a proud moment. Yet this emotion is slowly being eroded by an education system that can not afford to allow students to learn this harsh but all important lesson in life.
Failure doesn’t have to mean that you have been taught by a poor teacher. Failure could be down to your own factors, the fact you didn’t work hard enough or that didn’t focus on the task that was set. It’s the ability to look back at the cause of your own failure and take steps to improve that will make you a more improved learner in the longer term. This will develop increased life long skills benefiting education and society in the long term.
Yet sadly we have an education system that will never allow this to be tried and tested. Whilst the judgement of a school remains based around first time academic success, we will just continue to see the drive at any cost to student welfare to achieve success. A school simply can’t afford to allow x, y and z to learn the harsh lesson of life when they fail their exams though lack of self interest or effort, as otherwise they risk being judged as a failure themselves!