I have been a teacher for twenty years now and I have seen many trends come and go. It is difficult not to get the feeling that there is a crisis in education, with more and more students going on to higher education, deflation of the “value” of an education and increasing anxiety, depression and apathy among students.
One of the most worrying trends is the worldwide focus on achievement and standardized testing, which turns education more into something like a rat race than a humanistic endeavour. I have come to see trends in education as a tug of war between “farmer” and “hunter-gatherer” values:
objective is the integration of the learner into society
objective is the independence of the learner
Extrinsic motivation (grades, “stars”, praise)
Intrinsic motivation (passion)
Learning is “work” attitude
Learning is “growth” attitude
Big picture, integrated learning
Mastery of sets of skills
Lifelong learning and flexibility
Ironically education has become too much of a good thing, both for types: curricula are overblown, education systems are becoming more and more expensive and student debt is mounting while at the same time highly skilled people are increasingly hard to find for companies. No surprise that constant reforms of the education system are experimented with. The farmer way of reforming is by incremental improvements whereas hunter-gatherer types increasingly find that the education system is broken and needs radical reforms. Perhaps the time has come to rethink education more radically before more damage is done to students as well as the economy. A good read is Peter Gray’s book Free to Learn, which examines education from a hunter-gatherer point of view. In his book Peter Gray argues convincingly IMHO that we have to hand more control over to the students themselves to make education more effective.