Ten ideas to transform teaching

1. Pay teachers more (or make teaching tax free)
Teaching needs to become one of the most desirable professions. I might be wrong, but it strikes me that paying teachers a lot more could dramatically increase the quantity and quality of teachers. If paying more directly won’t work, how about making teaching a tax-free profession? Or how about building schools with heavily subsidised or free accommodation on site for teachers?

2. End the obsession with facilities
Schools love physical facilities and IT. They are things you can point to when inspectors and prospective parents come to visit. And they can be better behaved than students too. Buildings, in particular, can be a physical legacy for retiring head teachers too. Both are, of course, important, but not to the exclusion ofgoodteachers(seeabove).

3. Measure what matters
End the obsession with exam results and league tables. Or, if you won’t, broaden the measure to include other socially desirable factors. For example, could you measure moral character, kindness, dependability or determination? And would someone please start a study looking at the relationships between lifetime achievement (measured in the broadest sense) and schooling.

4. Start and end things later
There are two sides to this. On the one hand open schools earlier and keep them open until later so that parents have more exibility to drop off and pick up. Kids that come from troubled homes could have more time in a safe environment. The second side to this is why not start schooling when children are older, but the quid pro quo is they leave when they’re older too. We’ve doubled human lifespans over the last century, but education still starts around ve and ends around sixteen, eighteen or twenty-one. And while we’re on the subject of time, why do lessons have to be so rigidly structured? Why can’t you have a 1⁄2 day art lesson, a day of geography or a week of science? Why can’t schools be given more exibility over lesson length?

5. Get outside for more insight
Why are so many kids constantly crammed in classrooms like battery chickens? Get them outside. Interact with nature. Visit other people, other institutions and other communities. This is something the Finnish system does really well.

6. Forbid the use of mobile phones
Wouldn’t it be lovely if the internet got switched off on Sundays so that we could recharge ourselves? This isn’t go to happen, but how about banning mobile phones on school premises until the age of sixteen? OMG. This won’t go down well with students, but would remove distraction and would dilute peer-pressure and online abuse. The idea would apply to teachers and parents on school premises too.

7.Properly integrate schools into communities
Schools exist within the context of a local community, so why not make more use ofthis?Invitemorepeopleintoschoolsto explain what they do and get more students out into the community to experience everything from policing and healthcare to local businesses.

8. Make education more fun
I’m loathed to say this, largely because some schools have already embraced this with terrible consequences. In fact fun has emerged as a less taxing alternative to learning in some circumstances because parents don’t want their precious little snow akes doing anything that could be dif cult, boring or frustrating. Nevertheless, there’s no reason why more humour, wit and outright hilarity can’t be injected into everything from education to tax accountancy. Fun is something smart machines will never understand. Fun and fooling around also links strongly with creativity and innovation.

9. Don’t shy away from what’s hard and hard work
This is my counter-balance to making things fun. Not everything is or can be fun. Learning important stuff is hard and can be mind achingly boring. Get over it. Learn maths, learn grammar, learn handwriting, learn science (guilty!) even when you don’t really have to. It’s training the mind for other things that are hard or boring throughout life. Hard is also satisfying. Easy is the path most people take. Hard is less crowded and eventually has a better view. This is something that China, Singapore, Japan and Korea do get right.

10. Personalise some learning experiences
This contradicts ‘we’ not ‘me’ to some extent and there’s a danger of reinforcing special snow ake syndrome. Nevertheless, digital technology affords a great opportunity to tailor some learning experiences. For example, I’m a fan of reading physical books. But physical books are all the same and take no account of the fact readers can be different. An e-book, in contrast, can read its reader and adjust content or questions according to what it learns about the reader.

From On Education in the 21st Century by Richard Watson, Education Future Frontiers (NSW Dept of Education)

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