21 August 2020
Green Party Press Release
Secondary school teacher, NEU rep and Cambridge Green Party campaign manager, Mark Slade, calls for our education system to modernise and face the future.
Friday 21st August, 2020
Secondary school teacher, NEU rep and Cambridge Green Party campaign manager, Mark Slade, spoke today about the purpose of education and how our system needs to modernise to face the future. The full text can be found below the video:
"The purpose of education is to instil the values and teach the necessary skills for the next generation to flourish in our society.
Yet our education system is the product of the C19th; it reflects the economic and social needs of the past. The world has changed dramatically in the last thirty years but our education system has not. Even by its own standards, of preparing our children for the job-market, the existing system is failing. Businesses have made it clear that there are basic skill shortages that are not being addressed at school. These high-stake exams that we are forcing our students to take have not adapted to the information and digital revolutions of the C21st. They’re eroding young people’s passion to learn, to understand the world and their place in it. The most notable result of this culture of frequent high-stake testing is a mental health crisis for our children and a crushing pressure on teachers to deliver grades.
This comes from a worrying disconnect between the values of hard-work, meritocracy and knowledge and understanding that these exams supposedly instil and the values that we reward as a society. How can I tell my students about the importance of hard-work when hard working essential workers can struggle to scrape by? How can I look my students in the eye and tell them we live in a meritocracy when 60% of our government is privately educated compared to 7% of the general population. As Greta Thunberg said, how can pretend that we value knowledge and understanding when we have spent decades ignoring scientists and criticising experts.
To change the education system, we need to collectively agree on what we want the world to look like and what we chose to reward in our society. Right now, we are living through a climate emergency which is intensifying. In ten years’ time, the world we live in will look significantly different. Business as usual is not an option. Our education system must change quickly and dramatically to face that future. We cannot bury our heads in the sand any longer and pretend that things will simply work out. It is our responsibility to recognise the challenges that lay ahead and teach the next generation how to adapt to them.
What does that look like? I’d like to finish by reading you the mission statement of Ashton Vale, a fictional school from 2050 in Jonathon Porritt’s book ‘The World We Made’.
Our mission is to provide young people with the knowledge and skills they need to thrive in the world as it really is, not as it once was.We will help them to ask the right questions. We will teach them how to make and repair things; how to grow, love and cook food; how to celebrate the gift of life and understand the meaning of interdependence; how to be entrepreneurial and self-organising; how to build their community and to value nature; how to look after money and live generously; how to protect their own health and care for others; how to think critically, engage actively and live passionately. If we can rebuild our education system around such a statement, then the future will be very bright and there is much to hope for."