I love Sir Ken Robinson’s latest analogy to describe the need for a new model of education. Robinson advocates changing our view of education from an industrial process to an organic one. He makes comparisons between our focus on measuring outcomes in education with the work of farmers in the industrial age. Through excessively focusing on measuring outcomes and generating data, education has become a product.
Developments in the industrial age led to significant changes in farming practices. These developments in agriculture were driven by a relentless focus on the measurable aspects of the produce that was grown. Industrial processes were added to farming practices. In an endeavour to increase the yield of their crop, farmers adopted and conformed to standardised practices. They used mechanization to farm vast plots of land, utilised chemical fertilisers and pesticides to make their crops grow bigger and faster and mass production processes to increase their yield.
The emphasis in industrial models is focused on yield or outcomes that can be measured. The focus of industrialization of agriculture was on output, the plant that was produced. The narrow focus on the aspects that could be easily measured ignored the impact on the environment.
Whilst they refined their practices and grew high quality, standardized produce there was a price to pay. That price was the negative impact on the environment – erosion, pollution of waterways by fertilisers and pesticides and degeneration over time, of the topsoil.
Sir Ken Robinson makes comparison with the approach of organic farmers. They focus on the health and ecology of the whole system by emphasising the importance of the soil. By paying attention to getting the quality of the soil right, they know that the produce will be high quality. If you get the soil right, the plants will grow well and this is a sustainable and natural process.
Robinson highlights that in education we have been preoccupied with yield and output and along the way have lost focus on the natural processes of teaching and learning. We have become too industrialised in our approach and have eroded the culture of education.
Instead we need to see education as a human process where children flourish under certain conditions and our job as educators is to create those conditions in schools. Through creating these optimum conditions in schools, students will want to learn, will be engaged in their learning and see it as worthwhile.
The 10 minute video is well worth viewing.
In implementing Robinson’s model it is vital that school leaders reflect on the learning environment we are providing. Is it conducive to engaging students in real life learning experiences?