Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Ken Robinson: How to escape education's death valley (with excerpts)

This video, a third one by Ken Robinson on education, describes misconceptions about current school education system and gives hope of recreating it. This is a message that all policy makers on education must listen to.

Ken Robinson: How to escape education's death valley

FILMED APR 2013, POSTED MAY 2013 TED Talks Education

Below are some words from the video (all available from the video site; some words are colored and emphasized by me).


"There are three principles on which human life flourishes, and they are contradicted by the culture of education under which most teachers have to labor and most students have to endure."

"The first is this, that human beings are naturally different and diverse. ...

Education under No Child Left Behind is based on not diversity but conformity. What schools are encouraged to do is to find out what kids can do across a very narrow spectrum of achievement."

"The second principle that drives human life flourishing is curiosity. If you can light the spark of curiosity in a child, they will learn without any further assistance, very often. ...

Now the reason I say this is because one of the effects of the current culture here, if I can say so, has been to de-professionalize teachers. Teachers are the lifeblood of the success of schools. But teaching is a creative professionTeaching, properly conceived, is not a delivery system. You know, you're not there just to pass on received information. Great teachers do that, but what great teachers also do is mentor, stimulate, provoke, engage. ...

The role of a teacher is to facilitate learning. That's it. And part of the problem is, I think, that the dominant culture of education has come to focus on not teaching and learning, but testing.

Now testing is important. Standardized tests have a place. But they should not be the dominant culture of education. They should be diagnostic. They should help. ...

But all that should support learning. It shouldn't obstruct it, which of course it often does. So in place of curiosity, what we have is a culture of compliance.  Our children and teachers are encouraged to follow routine algorithms rather than to excite that power of imagination and curiosity."

"And the third principle is this: that human life is inherently creative. It's why we all have different résumés. We create our lives, and we can recreate them as we go through them. It's the common currency of being a human being. It's why human culture is so interesting and diverse and dynamic. ...

We all create our own lives through this restless process of imagining alternatives and possibilities, and what one of the roles of education is to awaken and develop these powers of creativity. Instead, what we have is a culture of standardization. ...

But what all the high-performing systems in the world do is currently what is not evident, sadly, across the systems in America -- I mean, as a whole.

One is this: They individualize teaching and learning. They recognize that it's students who are learning and the system has to engage them, their curiosity, their individuality, and their creativity. That's how you get them to learn.

The second is that they attribute a very high status to the teaching profession. They recognize that you can't improve education if you don't pick great people to teach and if you don't keep giving them constant support and professional development. ...

And the third is, they devolve responsibility to the school level for getting the job done. You see, there's a big difference here between going into a mode of command of control in education -- That's what happens in some systems. You know, central governments decide or state governments decide they know best and they're going to tell you what to do. The trouble is that education doesn't go on in the committee rooms of our legislative buildings. It happens in classrooms and schools, and the people who do it are the teachers and the students, and if you remove their discretion, it stops working. You have to put it back to the people.

There is wonderful work happening in this country. But I have to say it's happening in spite of the dominant culture of education, not because of it. It's like people are sailing into a headwind all the time. And the reason I think it is this: that many of the current policies are based on mechanistic conceptions of education. It's like education is an industrial process that can be improved just by having better data, and somewhere in, I think, the back of the mind of some policy makers is this idea that if we fine-tune it well enough, if we just get it right, it will all hum along perfectly into the future. It won't, and it never did.

The point is that education is not a mechanical system. It's a human system. It's about people, people who either do want to learn or don't want to learn. Every student who drops out of school has a reason for it which is rooted in their own biography. They may find it boring. They may find it irrelevant. They may find that 't's at odds with the life they're living outside of school. There are trends, but the stories are always unique. ...

So I think we have to embrace a different metaphor. We have to recognize that it's a human system, and there are conditions under which people thrive, and conditions under which they don't. We are after all organic creatures, and the culture of the school is absolutely essential. Culture is an organic term, isn't it?"

"The real role of leadership in education -- and I think it's true at the national level, the state level, at the school level -- is not and should not be command and control. The real role of leadership is climate control, creating a climate of possibility. And if you do that, people will rise to it and achieve things that you completely did not anticipate and couldn't have expected."

"There's a wonderful quote from Benjamin Franklin. "There are three sorts of people in the world: Those who are immovable, people who don't get, they don't want to get it, they're not going to do anything about it. There are people who are movable, people who see the need for change and are prepared to listen to it. And there are people who move, people who make things happen." And if we can encourage more people, that will be a movement. And if the movement is strong enough, that's, in the best sense of the word, a revolution. And that's what we need.

Thank you very much. Thank you very much."