The Future of Education?

Afbeelding voor The Future of Education?
"Preventing conflicts is the work of politics; establishing peace is the work of education. We must convince the world of the need for a universal, collective effort to build the foundation for peace" (Montessori, M. Education and Peace 2007: 30, Kindle Edition).

Montessori saw education as a means by which mankind might better themselves and the world they live in: “All mankind must be united and remain united forever. The masses must be educated, and education must be available at all times. On this fourth level society must help every human being and keep all mankind at the same high level as the evolving environment, and then elevate man above the environment so that he may further perfect it as he perfects himself” (Montessori, M. Education and Peace, 2007: 105, Kindle Edition).

Politicians tend to see education as an investment: the UK Education Secretary, Nadhim Zahawi commented on a recently published “Levelling Up” White Paper that “It focuses on putting great schools in every part of the country, training that sets you up for success in a high-skilled, well-paid career…”. The OECD in this Future of Education Brochure, considers the necessity of educational reforms to “ensure a good start for every young person by securing a level of foundational skills and competences that help with entry into the labour market.” In this article, Accelerating Education 4.0, the World Economic Forum considers education to be “an enabler of more dynamic, inclusive and prosperous societies, [which] must form a key part of the “economic” recovery.”

Whilst it might be considered naive to think that education’s role isn’t to “prepare children for their future”, as this article by Alfie Kohn suggests, shouldn’t education, first and foremost, be about “doing right by our children”, nurturing their curiosity and their interest? Teacher Tom writes in his blog post, The Meaning of Life, that there is no “doubt that caring for children is the central project of humanity, yet when I look around it’s clear that we, as a society, treat it as almost an afterthought. Our political parties do not seek to build society around this central project. Our economic entities do not.”

Nathan Archer from the Nuffield Foundation, together with Carey Oppenheim, conducted research considering The Role of Early Childhood Care and Education in Shaping Life Chances. This research is a powerful reminder of the many issues early childhood leaders, managers and practitioners have experienced in the past years. The statistics presented clearly set out the benefits and challenges of government funded, early childhood education, and highlight the importance of qualifications and the damage poor remuneration structures causes to workforce retention. The research sets out that, despite significant public funding, there are still inequalities of access to education and take-up, particularly for disadvantaged children. Services remain prohibitively expensive for some parents while being provided by a workforce that is poorly paid and undervalued.

Inequality in education is not a new phenomenon as this article in The Conversation sets out. Its author calls for a radical reform of education in which we as a society broaden our understanding of young people’s competences and nurture different “stories of learning”.

Montessori herself suggested that “The education of our day is rich in methods, aims and social ends, but one must still say that it takes no account of life itself. Among all the many methods officially used in different countries, no one proposes to help the individual from birth and to protect his development” (Montessori, M. The Absorbent Mind, 2007: 18, Kindle Edition).

It seems pertinent to remember that “The child has his own laws of growth, and if we want to help him grow, we must follow him instead of imposing ourselves on him” (Montessori, M. Education for a New World, 2007: 53, Kindle Edition).