Walls that stymie progress.

Forced stay at home regimes might look like a bit of a punishment but I prefer to see it as an opportunity. I am currently working towards a project the sees me going through papers and books stored in boxes and ignored over the past couple of years. This is proving to be quite a stop/go process. It is very easy that a paper one has enjoyed personally and previously catches the eye and half an hour later you are focussing on that paper to the exclusion of the rest. The same with books that might have been, in all -honesty, skimmed and put aside. Its starts with a flick-through that stops with a feeling that there is a chapter that demands closer attention.

One such small book in which Sir Kenneth Baker[1] (a.k.a. Lord Baker of Dorking) brings together a set of educators that subscribe Sir Kenneth’s view that the solution to raising educational outcome would be achieved by a focus on the age group 14-years to 19-years, challenging the obsession (in England) on the primary/secondary transition at age 11+ and the curriculum offered between that point and age 16-years when students leave school prepared for very little it seems.

One of his oft-quoted points made when asked why 14-19 and the answer is: “well, 11-years is too early and 16-years is too late.” In short, our current major transitions might not be serving students’ learning effectively.

His book is a collection of reflection from an international set of educators engaged in putting effort into creating effective vocational and technical education for the target group. A contribution from Alan Smithers[2] challenge the plausible arguments about education. 

A selection of his views.

“Take the sweeping generalisation that academic courses keep options open and vocational course close them down. While it is true that vocational courses have a specific purpose, it is good courses whatever stripe that that enhance opportunities and poor courses that restrict them.”

“Truancy has increased fivefold from Years 7 to 11!”

“If the assumption is that young people do not know what they are good at, what they like and what they want to do after nine years of required school attendance, then the quality of that education has to be questioned.”

It seems to me that the sectors we use these days ate arbitrary, not necessarily productive and based on premises lost in the mists of time. They have lost their purpose and do not serve students well.

There are many different structures used throughout the world – have we ever challenged the placement of sector boundaries in New Zealand?

More on this later, it’s back to the boxes for me!

  1.  Baker, Sir Kenneth, (2013), 14-19 A New Vision for Secondary Education, Bloomsbury Academic, London/New York.
  2.  Alan Smithers is Professor at Buckingham University and is deeply engaged with a variety of reports for the UK Government relating to education.

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  1. Christine McGuirk says:

    Partly it must be the motivation of the students and the parental expectation surely? Some of the refugee students I have taught at secondary school have done extremely well. And some of the Pasifika students too. Your next Opus!(as Ann Dunphy calls them) should be interesting!

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