Will it be blue skies or grey?

12th November 2004 at 00:00
So, what are we to make of the prospects for education in the year 2020, following this year's Edinburgh conference? It was interesting that the essays from the two young people who won our competition associated with the conference (TESS, last week) encompassed the wide range of issues.

Indeed, the two photographs that accompanied their contributions gave graphic illustration to that range - the state-of-the-art primary school in East Kilbride, representing the specific school environment agenda; and the Iraqi Kurds seeking refuge in Turkey, representing the broader, geopolitical agenda which young people in particular feel schools need to address.

The trouble with a conference that focuses on vision, as it were, is that it is often difficult to see how we get from here to there. What, for example, do we make of the comment from Fraser Patrick of YouthLink Scotland that we need to "celebrate learning and embrace uncertainty"? Can we embrace uncertainty and will we know it when we see it? The conference had much to tell us about certainty and uncertainty, the specific and the general, the personal and the professional, the local and the global.

On the other hand, as we were frequently reminded, teachers and pupils have their heads down as well as up. They are aided by the "ah buts" whose thinking is more grey skies than blue, which is no less valid. Also, as Judith McClure, this week's Platform author, pointed out, there are many people who remain defiantly in the box rather than out of it and leadership is required to change their perspectives.

There was none the less a wide range of agreement at the conference about what the "learning garden" should look like, if not what it would look like, when today's two-year-olds leave school in 16 years' time - from changes in technology to teaching, from life in school to the realities beyond the classroom, from services that are integrated to individuals who have integrity. It is indeed a huge agenda but, as we need no reminding, it is not one for education alone.

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