Preparing young people to live a worthwhile life has, too often, degenerated into a competition for advantage; a grotesque application of Darwinist fears concerning survival of the fittest, where it is imperative to be first past the finishing post, wherever it is located or whatever it is conceived to be.
But how can we best calibrate the distance run? By what metric must we judge our success, judge others, judge our children? How may we quantify success? Perhaps more importantly, how can we give our children the edge?
Universities have shown us the way. At one time, only a small fraction of the population would be expected to attend university, and only a few could meet the criteria. But the world has changed and heaved itself out of its industrial slumber; in the developed world, that means no more jobs for life or even jobs as we once knew them.
Thank goodness for examinations, test scores, grades and standards. By these we are able to judge and differentiate. By these we can measure success. By these we can chart a path for our children and establish some idea of their “worth”. Like timekeepers we can check the laps, compare times and distance run, and like all good coaches we can construct training regimes to give our children advantage, however slight. Extra training is good, because we know that the competition will be fierce and will doubtless be doing the same – if not more! Now there’s an uncomfortable thought – it keeps us awake at night.
Politicians, too, are tossing and turning. They have embraced the world of measurement, data collection and league tables. And government departments have been created to calibrate and set standards and to hold people accountable. Teachers must respond to the tests by focusing on achieving the standards set down by the watchdogs of society and ensuring that all paperwork is up to date and then up to date. Only written records and data will be admissible because these can be studied and manipulated; calibration surely is the key when teachers cannot be trusted and governments need to convince themselves.
It appears that education has become too important to leave to the teachers; the primary reality is that which can be measured – how wonderful that Descartes is as relevant today as he was in the 17th century.
– Neil Richards
Neil Richards is the Headmaster at British International School, Phuket. For more information, visit them at www.bisphuket.ac.th