The benefits of a flexible approach

28th January 2000 at 00:00
I WAS pleased to read Ngaio Crequer's article in the "Penalty for the flexible" about Amanda Hayes' paper (TES, December 17) on standards and the measurement of the learning outcomes of adult students.

Ms Hayes has drawn much needed attention to the benefits of courses for adults, where there is no formal external assessment of achievement. This is particularly timely in light of the Learning and Skills Bill which will see the disappearance of the artificial divide between legitimate and "illegitimate" courses.

Because we are flexible and do not specify a common learning goal, we are able to accommodate a wide spectrum of interests within the same class, thus widening participation and encouraging lifelong learning. We could illustrate this in virtually any of the 1,000 courses that we run, and each would demonstrate its own range of differing learing outcomes for the individual students within the class. Take just one example: our students of Sanskrit. Only one wished to work to an external award of an A-level (and was awarded an A*). Other students spoke of different learning outcomes: cultural appreciation especially of philosophy, literary and religious texts; enhanced performance in work contexts (interacting with Asian colleagues and clients, teaching yoga); acquisition of study skills; acquiring the rudiments of philosophy which enabled the student to read newspapers in Hindi, and better understanding of the local Asian community and its values.

Just as formal assessment of learning fails to recognise this individual variation, it also overlooks group learning outcomes.

Olga Janssen

Vice-principal (curriculum)

Mary Ward Centre

42 Queen Square

London WC1

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