Parents are a major obstacle to the global school reforms needed for world prosperity, one of the most influential figures in international education claimed today.
Andreas Schleicher, education director for the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development), was speaking as he launched the first report from a new drive by the organisation to analyse education policy reforms around the world.
It identifies policy “overload” and a failure to engage teachers as being among the factors that sometimes prevent reforms from working.
But when asked about the importance of good political leadership in achieving effective education reform, Mr Schleicher identified another potential hindrance: parents.
“Big reforms require really courageous leadership, particularly in the field of education,” he said. “Opponents to any kind of reform are always going to outnumber the people who are in favour of change.
“Parents are a very conservative force. Everybody wants the education system to improve but ‘not with my child’. The dynamics are very, very tough. It requires very strong political leadership.”
His view appears to fly in the face of much recent education policy in England, which has been designed with parents in mind.
The government’s free schools scheme was devised partly to give parents the opportunity to run their own schools and to extend parental choice. Meanwhile, ministers’ Labour opponents have proposed parent-led academies as an alternative.
Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: “I don’t think parents are necessarily a conservative force.
“I think what is important is that schools and teachers engage with parents and explain what they are doing with pupils. Because if it is something that parents have not experienced themselves and don’t understand, then it is not surprising that they might be not very happy with a new approach or method.”
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