There’s a growing and malevolent threat to education worldwide. It’s the Global Education Reform Movement
. GERM symptoms are:
1Competition between schools.
2Standardisation. Prescribed curriculum, teaching and expected outcomes.
But competition between schools reduces collaboration
. In a competitive school system there will be winners and losers. In competitive school systems the weakest will be marginalised because weak pupils bring down results.
Standardisation dilutes teacher professionalism.
You don’t need trained teachers to teach a centrally-prescribed curriculum. In England, academy schools are theoretically free of the national curriculum – in reality the exam system drives what is taught. And ministers make it quite clear
what a "good" curriculum looks like.
Accountability by testing narrows the curriculum
– only subjects which are tested matter. Creative subjects are marginalised; essential skills which can’t easily be tested are side-lined.
The OECD said their evidence suggests increasing parental choice doesn’t make school systems more effective
. And giving parents a “choice” of schools turns them and their children into consumers rather than recipients of a universal right: a good school for all children, good schools for every child nationally and globally.
Why, then, is GERM so virulent? Why does it threaten education?
These were questions asked at yesterday’s international conference, “Global Education ‘Reform’: Building Resistance and Solidarity”. The answer is one word: money.
The world-wide education market reached $4.4 trillion
– that’s TRILLION – in 2013. It’s set to grow further by 2017. And global organisations want a piece of the pie.
Competition means parents must be persuaded that School X is more synonymous with “excellence” than School Y. This increases demand for marketing to strengthen the appeal of a particular “brand” whether it’s an academy chain in England or global education publishers pushing their own solutions to so-called “failing” education systems.
Standardisation drives the market for published “solutions”, not just off-the-shelf curricula but services provided by education management organisations (EMOs). E-learning – delivering education via the internet – is the fastest-growing sector. And you don’t need trained teachers to supervise pupils in front of a computer – just “grannies in the clouds
”. You don’t need trained teachers to deliver ready-made “affordable
” education sold as a solution for educating the world’s poor. But for-profit schools for the poor aren’t the answer. If families have to choose between food and education, then they will necessarily choose the former. If families can only afford to educate one child, the other children remain uneducated.
Accountability makes it easier to pay teachers by results. This is sold as rewarding “good” teachers and punishing “bad” ones. But this raises the question of what teachers are for. Are they expected to encourage children to read deeply, analyse, calculate, weigh evidence, discuss, co-operate, create…? Or are they just to push pupils through tests? And tests, of course, demand an exam system. This provides millions of pounds in England alone not just in question papers but materials which support exam syllabuses.
GERM threatens the idea that education is a human right for all children irrespective of their ability to pay. It undermines the notion that education is good for society as a whole. It turns schooling into a product that can be bought and sold for profit. When market forces are introduced into education, equity is at risk.
Yesterday’s conference showed how teachers and parents are uniting to fight GERM – watch this site for details in a future thread.
Education is not for sale – it’s a human right which needs defending.