School, what is it good for? A great deal.

What is the purpose of school? To what end are we educating our children? What is our role as a teacher and how will that role continue to develop?

It is an on-going conversation and one that will become increasingly prominent as the world of work continues to change at a rate of knots. I read Caitlin Moran’s most recent submission in The Times this weekend with great interest as yet another member of the printed press weighed in with their rather skewed take on some of the questions above. I cannot speak for Moran’s research and preparation for the article, but my assumption is that it was based entirely on her own school days and her experiences thereafter.

Carl Hendrick followed this piece with his excellent blog post stating: ‘Education is an end in itself not a preparation for the workplace’. Carl’s rather eloquent description of ‘TED-talk* bingo’ and a ‘pseudo-futurist, Waitrose Organic aisle philosophy’ are hard to ignore, not least because for most students, this is not the present and it certainly isn’t the immediate future. As Carl rightly points out, the present for many of our students will be a good set of A Level results that opens a door to a future, be that in further education, their career, or more broadly, as a member of their community. In whatever form this future manifest, it is impossible to ignore the fact that knowledge, and more specifically knowledge acquisition, will be utterly invaluable to the individual in question.

*As a slight aside, I would add that I think TED talks have their purpose, and while often Utopian in their outlook, they remain an important tool for students to engage with new ideas and to think critically about them. A discussion for another day…

By pure coincidence (and this probably says a great deal about the pertinence of the conversation) parents, teachers and students at my school were invited to join Richard and Daniel Susskind yesterday evening, as they explored ‘the future of the professions’, building upon their book of the same title published in 2015 . The conclusion that they arrived at (and I will paraphrase at this point) is that the future of careers is not about picking up the baton and doing it the same way as those before. Their argument followed that ‘the best way to predict the future is to invent it’. The future of the professions, according to the Susskind’s is a choice – to compete or to build? The future for our students and children is about passion, curiosity and expertise – health not doctors, justice not lawyers, education not teachers. A pursuit of knowledge therefore, is essential to this medium term future.

Whether it is Caitlin Moran or ‘Shift Happens’ [I will admit I enjoyed that video when I first saw it several years ago] we are constantly being told that the jobs we are preparing out students for haven’t been invented yet. I disagree, to an extent, largely because while those jobs may look different to those that are being carried out now, the tasks involved will remain the same – problem solving, critical thinking and so on. Within all of this lies the ability to acquire knowledge and to discriminate between that information in order to complete the task required. School, and the teachers within, will continue to play a pivotal role in this process.

Author: sabato101

Assistant Headteacher (Teaching and Learning) at a leading Independent Girls Day School in Hertfordshire. Teacher of History and Politics.

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