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M Night Shyamalan: I see ed(ucated) people

Having resurrected the dead in The Sixth Sense, Hollywood director M Night Shyamalan is now hoping to resurrect failing schools in the USA and beyond.

Mr Shyamalan has written a book, I Got Schooled, the subtitle of which immediately denies any humility in the face of an overwhelming subject: the unlikely story of how a moonlighting movie maker learnt the five keys to closing America’s education gap.

I see…BEd people.

After the commercial success of his early films, Mr Shyamalan decided to fund scholarships for inner-city schoolchildren in his home town of Philadelphia. But, when he met the scholarship students, he felt that they were still academically and socially unprepared for university. And so he decided to step in.

I see…big-head people.

He began to examine the education system as though it were a particularly hole-ridden film plot (anyone who has seen After Earth might argue that he would do better to examine hole-ridden film plots as though they were hole-ridden film plots).

This led to the revelation that achievement in US schools fell along clear racial divides: white children consistently performed better than black children. He concluded that countries such as Finland and Singapore have effective school systems because they are more racially homogeneous than the USA. (See earlier point about hole-ridden plots.)

His initial enquiries threw up a range of suggestions. Mr Shyamalan’s third-act revelation, however, was that any one of them alone was not enough: they needed to be taken together. He compares it to living healthily: it is not enough to eat well, or exercise, or sleep properly. One must do all three.

His conclusion, therefore, is that schools that want to perform well (by which he means achieve good results) must adopt all of the following: great teachers; an increased school day or extended year; smaller pupil numbers; data-driven instruction; leaders who teach, instead of spending time on administration.

I see…dead obvious, people.

"I Got Schooled" will be published on 10 September.

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