Brave New World


Two pieces of news attracted my attention today, one a speech from Nicky Morgan the Secretary of State for Education in England and the other a tweet from Andreas Schleicher the Secretary of State for Education in the World.

In her speech at BETT 2015 Morgan trumpeted that: “Already we have begun to produce destination data on school-leavers to identify where they end up. We aim to include them in league tables by 2017… In future, we could try to link qualifications to tax data too, in order to demonstrate the true worth of certain subjects… On my regular tours of schools across the country, teachers have shown me apps that can scan and mark almost instantly – saving hours of work,” According to this article in the TES she thinks: ‘Lesson plans are increasingly being curated, Ms Morgan added, helping to “reduce duplication” in the system and helping to “spread good practice from school to school”.’

In his tweet Schleicher trumpeted that: “PISA: A Tool for Improving Teaching and Learning…” Linking to this website it includes the joyful news that: ‘We will explore PISA’s approach to assessing student knowledge and skills. We will also consider ways in which PISA can be used as a tool to help teachers reflect on and improve teaching and learning in their local contexts.’ And that, if you complete the PISA course you will: “Demonstrate knowledge of the ways in which PISA assessments can be used as a tool for improving teaching and learning [and] Apply knowledge of PISA tests to adopt innovative approaches to teaching and learning”.

And lo, it came to pass… this is our brave new world.

Now, I’ve got nothing against data or technology but I do question the ideology that wants to use it for such bizarre ends. If we end up with a list of top GCSE and A level exams to take if you want to earn the most and therefore pay the most tax and everyone takes these exams what then? If we all teach the same lesson plans and mark with the same APPS using research to inform us as to ‘what works’, what then? If we manage to get everyone to pass the right exams with the right grade and they all line up at the Pearly Gates of, er, Oxbridge… What then? If everyone then leaves Oxbridge clutching their passes into the higher echelons of the media, the law, politics, acting, footlights ‘fools’ and the wherewithal to be a bearded barista, what then?

Well maybe we can try to be the most magisterial medias, loquacious lawyers, pithy politicians, accessible actors, funny fools and brilliant beards in the whole world IF we use PISA as a tool for improving teaching and learning…

What a comfort to know our future is safe…

“But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin…”

Aldous Huxley

2 thoughts on “Brave New World

  1. I wonder if there are many teachers left whose first thought is about the students rather than the school’s targets? Pushing students into narrow pathways to take ‘more financially beneficial’ subjects is the teaching profession saying ‘we know what’s best for you’. It would take a minimum 10 year research follow-up to see how a Year 11 cohort turned out.


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