Within many nations, there is a crises in what education should mean each one looking over their shoulder at other neighbours, wondering how they can all improve their systems and gain better and better results. Results, data, accountability, progress, targets! These battles to the top of the international league tables woefully forget those at the heart of the education system – teachers and pupils. Teachers pandering to management whims, who – in turn – are pandering to inspectors whims, who – in turn – are pandering to the whims of politicians, who – in turn – are pandering to the whims of international comparisons and the promises made by market forces, who do very nicely out of the exam factory system, thank you very much. As a result, all this is leading to a ‘devastating waste of human potential’ so claims Dr Debra Kidd, in her new book “Teaching: notes from the front line”.
It is the teaching profession that has taken the greatest hit in this race to the top, with many stuck in the classroom being over-burdened with paperwork and bureaucratic activities leaving very little time to have much of a life away from school work. Politicians and journalists are guilty of undermining the profession, who in turn become too tired or too scared to argue back, with Dr Kidd highlighting times when they fall into the trap of blaming each other for the failings of very questionable assessment systems, citing the number of teachers who receive a new set of pupils being perplexed by the gradings of their previous teachers, throwing “their hands up in despair as they consider the implications of those levels on their own progress data.”
Dr Kidd also gives due attention to the behaviours of countries who look at each other in trying to improve their standing in international tables, as Singapore move to a Teach Less, Learn More policy for their teachers; the England government looking at US initiatives, even though their table rankings fall lower; plus how governments actually ignore the much admired Finland model of respect towards their teachers and the systems they ‘successfully’ have in place. The system of bringing Maths graduates over to England is examined, but with differing number systems and cultures, this is just another whimsical political idea which is doomed for failure – transplanting teachers into one system WILL NOT work unless you transplant the culture too.
The discursive nature of this book provokes many questions whilst reading, but pointing out the errors of the way within the education system (mainly in England) – explored by Dr Kidd – is well argued, backed-up with research and analysis making the reader to stop and think about what actually is going on in the modern day education system. In fact, a ten point pedagogical revolution is advocated for teachers, helping all remember the ‘why’ they went into teaching in the first place – many of which would concern politicians, school inspectors, journalists and market forces if they were to be implemented by the majority within the profession. Seek out this book – beg, borrow, steal (not really), or buy. Try to find time to read it by yourself. Try to find time to read it as a staff. But most importantly, think beyond your classroom walls and question the system you are working in. Is it really the best education system for modern day pupils?
Teaching: Notes from the Front Line by Debra Kidd is published by Independent Thinking Press (an imprint of Crown House Publishing) with a RRP of £12.99*, but available from Amazon Kindle priced £11.15*, or £12.76* for Paperback. Click on the link below to view: