CaptureLast Thursday I attended the Reform “think tank” event on Schools for the Future that was held at Microsoft’s office in London. The event included 4  panels of speakers discussing topics such as the state of education in the UK, the quality of teachers, raising the bar, and saving money. It was a really interesting group of speakers, ranging from industry representatives, to head teachers, to university researchers, to former Minister for Schools Jim Knight.

There was a keynote during the day from the current Minister for Schools, Nick Gibb, on this, the 50th day of the new coalition government. The entire transcript of the Minister’s speech can be found HERE if you’d like to read it.

There was one point of the speech that particularly caught me, and I’d love to know what you, as UK teachers, think of it. Here it is:

On one side of the ideological debate are those who believe that children should learn when they are ready, through child-initiated activities and self-discovery – what Plowden called ‘Finding Out’. It is an ideology that puts the emphasis on the processes of learning rather than on the content of knowledge that needs to be learnt.

The American education academic, E.D. Hirsch, traces this ideology back to the 1920s, to the Teachers College Columbia in New York and the influence of the educationalists, John Dewey and William Heard Kilpatrick.

Added to that ideology is the notion that there is so much knowledge in the world that it is impossible to teach it all – and very difficult to discern what should be selected to be taught in schools. So, instead, children should be taught how to learn.

I believe very strongly that education is about the transfer of knowledge from one generation to the next.

Knowledge is the basic building block for a successful life….What is to be criticised is an education system which has relegated the importance of knowledge in favour of ill-defined learning skills.

I’m curious to know where you stand in this debate. Which is it – do we organise our education system around the memorisation of facts and figures and the ability to recall them for national exams? Or do we continue to look at things like learning styles, personalisation of learning, student-centred learning and project-based learning, where “knowledge” can be applied in a real-world context, in a way that motivates and interests learners, and at a pace and style that suits their learning?

(Incidentally – here’s what the Minister has to say about child-centred learning: Again, the ideologically-driven, child-centred approach to education has led to the belief that the mere exposure to books and text, and the repetition of high frequency words, will lead to a child learning to read – as if by osmosis.)

I’d love your comments…