This morning I led two sessions at the London Festival of Education discussing issues around education. After the statements by the secretary of state opening the festival on assessment and what an educated person looks like, we shifted our debate to discuss these issues.
We had a wide ranging debate about what an educated person should be, re-conceptualised by some to be better framed as ‘what does being an educated person feel like’. Broadly, there was some agreement with the idea that a body of knowledge and skills was important, but attendees seemed to prefer to define this away from the classics that Gove cited to what was perceived to be a more common ‘cultural capital’.
There was some question about whether being an ‘educated person’ is the same as being a ‘whole person’. Some questioned whether school should be defined as an area of academic learning, and that some of the more holistic areas of learning would be better supported elsewhere in people’s lives.
Questioning was a key theme; and it was thought by many that developing a sense of where one fits in the world through the earlier mentioned cultural capital was a part of this. The idea of being able to approach different situations from different points of view was related to this, whether by questioning or from being able to take an approach informed by experience in a wide variety of disciplines. This is part of the power of the ‘academic’ approach, but one participant preferred to define this as ‘thoughtfulness’; perhaps an approach which could be more transferable to areas out side of academic study, whilst still learning from the strengths of this approach.
Another strong theme was happiness; should place more value on the concept of contentment and not competition and a market driven approach? This brought the discussion back to whether education should be a defined, but segmented area of a persons experience which allows them to succeed in the economy (and hence allow the economy to succeed), with other aspects of their learning taking place elsewhere.
Clearly these were big questions for two, two hour sessions. However, some really interesting arguments came through as to how we should be approaching contemporary education. The boo’s and hisses directed at Michael Gove may express the emotional reaction of many to current educational policy, but this morning I was privileged to spend time with people who would rather unpick the assumptions behind this policy, define the discussion we should be having around these assumptions of what education is and articulate their argument to move things forward.