Thursday, December 11, 2008

How well does government serve our children?

Being a parent with school-aged children, their education and future prospects are of significant interest and concern to me.

I want to ensure that my children are prepared for the world as it will exist in ten, twenty and thirty or more years.

The government should be at least as concerned. The impacts of effective or ineffective education have long-term ramifications for a nation, which can be experienced as a shortage of skilled workers, falling innovation and company/job creation, slower economic growth, inadequate leadership and even, in extreme cases, the disintegration of a nation's fabric.

I am acutely conscious that the majority of WHAT I learnt at school 30 years ago has not provided significant benefit in the areas I have worked in. The majority of my practical knowledge came from outside official learning channels.

Even at university in the late 80s, though the subject matter was more useful, the teaching techniques (large lecture halls and crowded tutorials), were not an effective environment for many people to learn.

The jobs I have worked in since the mid-1990s did not exist ten years before - in most cases the organisations and their business models did not exist either.

So how do we prepare our children to be effective, successful and happy contributors to a future economy?

This is one of those big hairy audacious problems for which I don't see simple solutions - predicting five years into the future is hard, let alone 30 or 40 years.

Two things I experienced at school did prepare me for the future world (of today). A passion for learning and an understanding of how to seek out information and process it.

These two skills are in my view the most important that can be taught to any children. They lead to flexibility and adaptiveness, skills that our current and future economy will need in abundance. They also lead to individuals that are confident, able to effectively assess risks and willing to build new things, not simply propogate the old.

So the question for me becomes - does our current schooling system still foster these two skills amongst our children?

Or does the system we have today focus on subject matter (curriculum) rather than individual learning capacity and outcomes?

I believe that the biggest learning factor in any education are the teachers. The second biggest factor are the other students. Third is accessibility to information and the actual material or curriculum is a distant fourth.

In my view if adequately trained teachers are not available, or if students are not encouraged and supported to work together collaboratively it does not matter how good the curriculum is - the learning outcomes will be poor.

So are we paying enough attention to education in government, even with the 'education revolution'?

I'm not sure yet - however the following video from Professor Michael Wesch, brought to my attention by Stephen Collins of Acidlabs in his post, Connect.Ed - The story of a girl, raises real questions in my mind.

And so does Mark Pesce's post, Those Wacky Kids, on his blog the human network and the post by Harriet Wakelam, Connect.ed or Once upon a time there was a boy... at her blog Technology Twitter.

How do others feel about the adequacy of our education systems?

And is the current debate over 'Gen Y' workers at least partially related to the education they were given?

Do we need an 'e-education revolution'?

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