My Gran is 85. Upon announcing to a loud fanfare of whoops and hurrahs that my first book had been published, creatively entitled ‘The 2017 Parents’ Guide to Primary Schools’, she promptly asked ‘why? We didn’t have all this in my day’.
Of course she is right. In her day the world was different. The primary schooling she experienced was in the same rural school as her mother, grandmother and eventually for her own daughter, my mother. Children were taught the 3 r’s of reading, writing and arithmetic. It didn’t require explaining as children were taught in the way that their parents had been taught and girls of her generation and community were headed for the lofty heights of secretarial college to learn ‘Pitman’s Shorthand’ and then, of course, to keep a home.
And this brings me to why. A good friend of mine, the lovely mathematics education expert Sue Lowndes, frequently recounts Henry Ford’s saying ‘If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.’ This assumption stands if everything else were to remain static. However, the world is no longer static, we are in the midst of a global technological revolution.
If you do what you have always done today, you will no longer get what you always got yesterday.
Nowhere is this more visible than in the classroom. I started teaching 20 years ago. My classroom then does not remotely resemble any classroom I see now. Chalk boards (oh, the dry hands!) that with burning innovation led to white boards and not only that but the magnetic whiteboard! I remember now the sense of excitement as the magnetic tape arrived; resource heaven! And then, with age of computers and developing technology, there arrived the mystical being of the interactive board. Ignoring the hours of trying to work out the optimum height for pupils where you wouldn’t bang your head on the projector, this transformed how my classroom looked and felt, and how I taught. Now, of course, we are into 1:1 devices, an information age where all known knowledge is quite literally at your and your children’s finger-tips.
The education that children experience today is different from the education experienced by their parents and their grandparents, just as the world our parents and grandparents experienced as young people is different.
We are firmly living in a global village and, as parents and teachers, we are preparing our children for a different world to that in which we grew up. By default, schools and school systems are adapting to utilise the opportunities this new world affords as well as boldly navigating a sea of future uncertainty as we make judgements about what skills, knowledge and understanding young people will need to be the global leaders of tomorrow.
So… to my lovely Gran, I say ‘ipsa scientia potestas est’ (knowledge itself is power). The three r’s are as important now as they have always been but how you get there, what additional skills you need and where this will take young people as they progress through and beyond the primary years is different. In this brave new world parents need information and knowledge about how education is changing and developing so they can best support their children to grasp the potential of these new and exciting times as we collectively strive to create happy, responsible and innovative future leaders.