Why 21st Century Education is half-baked

Perhaps it’s the bias of the medium, but spend much time online among teachery types and you come across a whole host of slightly hackneyed tropes. There is the “Shift Happens” video, Sir Ken Robinson, the “guide on the side vs sage on the stage” mantra, factory-model schooling is bunk, and long, well-meaning pieces about 21st century learning like this and this. None of it, I think, is particularly wholesome.

That’s not necessarily because it’s wrong. Yes, there is a lot of waffle around 21st century skills Harry Webb has pointed out, but there is also good sense there in places. Some of it I agree with, some not. But all of it I find disheartening and half-baked.

The OECD have a peculiarly dry piece about the shifts taking place in education and learning. Take this snippet, for example.

“Value is less and less created vertically through command and control-as in the classic “teacher instructs student” relationship-but horizontally, by whom you connect and work with, whether online or in person. In other words, we are seeing a shift from a world of stocks, where knowledge is stored up but not exploited, and so depreciates rapidly, to a world of flows, where knowledge is energised and enriched by the power of communication and constant collaboration. This will become the norm. Barriers will continue to fall as skilled people appreciate, and build on, different values, beliefs and cultures.”

Well, hooray for the focus on learning communities, but does anyone else find this sort of thing soulless, almost completely so? It is education as management speak, learning as an economic need.

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Today, though, I came across a piece by Cyril Norwood.

The education that has so far been given to the people is at most partial and second best, and has little in common whether in range or in spirit with the universal education that may be. It was but the least possible with which the people would be contented and it was calculated to equip not citizens but servants… [hl]But education has to fit us for something … so incomparably precious that it will save a man from being a mere unit, a cipher: it will give him a life of his own, independent of the machine. And therefore at any cost our education must never sink to the level at which it will be merely vocational.[/hl]”

This has crystallized matters for me and made me realise quite why I think 21st century education is half-baked. In all of its rhetoric, the focus is on the learner; that, I believe, is “a good thing”. 21st century learning focuses, though, on the learner almost solely as an economic unit, as “a cipher” that needs preparing for a job that doesn’t yet exist. In doing so, it ignores the learner as a human, as a person with hopes and aspirations beyond the machine. Education, as Sir Cyril says, should never merely be training.

Sir Stuart Rose: Schools are not providing workers with the right skills – Telegraph

Sir Stuart joined the attack on the British education system claiming that businesses are “not always getting what we need.”

The boss of country’s biggest clothes retailer added to the scathing criticism by Sir Terry Leahy, chief executive of Tesco, who recently said the standard of school leavers was “woefully low.”
[this typo is as it was in the article, depressingly enough!…]

He said of some school-leavers: “They cannot do reading. They cannot do arithmetic. They cannot do writing.”He said of some school-leavers: “They cannot do reading. They cannot do arithmetic. They cannot do writing.”

Source: here

Student faces expulsion for Facebook study group

Officials at Toronto's Ryerson University … have sent a notice of expulsion to first-year computer engineering student Chris Avenir after a professor came across a Facebook group called Dungeons/Mastering Chemistry Solutions where students were encouraged to exchange tips and answers for an online testing system.

The group had 147 members from Ryerson's first-year chemistry and computer engineering programs before it was shut down recently.

Avenir, 18, is now facing 146 charges of academic misconduct under the university's policy. Avenir was listed as an administrator of the group.

Source: here

The hidden curriculum of 21st century learning

The hidden curriculum of 21st Century learning refers to all of the skills – which are increasingly soft and social – that are presumed but not explicitly taught or scaffolded in education. Skills that are largely present among the most socially privileged learners but not explicitly addressed within the curriculum or school structure as a whole.

Source: here

The hidden curriculum of 21st century learning

The hidden curriculum of 21st Century learning refers to all of the skills – which are increasingly soft and social – that are presumed but not explicitly taught or scaffolded in education. Skills that are largely present among the most socially privileged learners but not explicitly addressed within the curriculum or school structure as a whole.

Source: here

Common Core – A Challenge to the Partnership for 21st Century Skills

Skills are important and the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) has identified skills that all children need such as critical thinking, creativity, and problem-solving…. Cognitive science teaches us that skills and knowledge are interdependent and that possessing a base of knowledge is necessary to the acquisition not only of more knowledge, but also of skills. Skills can neither be taught nor applied effectively without prior knowledge of a wide array of subjects.

Education policy and practice should be based on sound research and informed by an understanding of what has worked and what has failed in the past. Attempts to teach skills apart from knowledge have failed repeatedly over the last century because they do not work…

We, undersigned, call on P21 and other advocates of 21st century skills to reshape their effort by putting knowledge and skills together at the core of their work.

Source: here

TeachPaperless: Diane Ravitch could use some critical thinking skills.

As for that phrase "21st century skills". In my mind, this has nothing to do with teaching or not teaching "critical thinking". After all, any decent teacher has been teaching critical thinking all along — starting with Socrates.

"21st century skills", rather, needs to be taken as what it is and not be allowed to fester as the discarded red herring it's become.

Source: here