Monday, July 17, 2006

it'll happen here, too: Teachers Under Siege

Teachers Under Siege
Sandra Leaton Gray
In the 1988 Education Reform Act, there was political impetus to see education marketised, allowing good schools to compete against bad ones for pupils, theoretically forcing the bad ones to close. There was a political desire for increased centralisation of education, which eventually led to Local Education Authorities being systematically undermined, mainly by allowing schools to opt out of local authority control, and become directly-funded, or 'Grant Maintained,' from central Government. A National Curriculum was introduced, as a further standardisation measure, along with new public examinations, called the General Certificate in Secondary Education.... Further assessment and quality control mechanisms were introduced, including Standard Assessment Tests, aimed at assessing pupils' progress in relation to the National Curriculum at ages 7, 11, and 14.... This undermined the status of the professional and turned the teacher into a technician, delivering a model for education that had been developed elsewhere.
If the above words seem eerily familiar, it's because you recognize the same themes in recent American education reform. Standardization. Centralization. Dehumanization. Control. Teachers Under Siege explains how British education got that way, and where it's headed in the future.

The book is a qualitative study based on interviews with 40 educators from various and diverse British locales, addressing the political, economic, social and technological future of teaching. Participants were asked to envision education in 2020, and their visions are largely cynical. Gray establishes a theoretical framework for the study, presents the methods and results, and then interprets the data to recommend conclusions.

It's heavy going, and not for those who aren't comfortable with sociological jargon and a baseline familiarity with British education. However, the conclusion is a clarion call.
Until teachers grasp the oppportunity to attend professional association meetings, stand for election and use the democratic process to give themselves a voice, they can expect to people policy but not to influence it.... Education needs to learn to value its human face over its organizational one, and teachers need to be at the vanguard.

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