Should learning – and schools – be about learning skills for the employment world or knowledge for knowledge’s sake?
By Anthea Hollist
“Should learning – and schools – be about learning skills for the employment world or knowledge for knowledge’s sake?”
–Sarah Ebner from the Timesonline.
What should be the aim/s of education? This is an important question for all those who are concerned with education and learning.
There are some who believe that education should be about skills and competencies, about equipping people for the ‘real’ world’, enabling them to get a job. Sadly this idea is not just from future employers, but from educational leaders and students, who perceive that the only value of education is to enable students to go to college, then university and finally to get a job. From my perusal of educational literature on this topic, I found that this leads to an instrumental attitude towards learning and education, which in turn leads to students being disengaged with the curriculum (insofar that surface learning (learning to pass an exam) rather than deep learning which leads to greater understanding and the ability to apply what is learnt to life); with the school and with their community, in addition it often leads to a lack of passion for further study and the inability to think critically and develop new ideas.
On the other hand, there are those who believe that learning should be about student’s acquiring knowledge because of the joy of learning. These two ideas are not polemic but should be connected. However as schools, colleges and universities are pushed towards accountability for everything from intake to results, the pressure is on for students to pass exams rather than to engage with their learning to any real level of depth. It was only at the level of university where I took sociology (a perceived soft subject) where I felt I was able to ‘learn’ for knowledge sake rather then learn for employment. This was in part due to the independent style of learning and teaching, the freedom to choose what I wanted to study and a freedom to design course contain.
The increase in independent schools has now seen a move away from the traditional class room curriculum lead environment, to one where students are engaging with what they are learning. Such schools as High Tech High and Harris Federation are moving towards a more student led curriculum and are proving that a good education is a mix of competencies and learning skills for learning sake.