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What do they mean?

This first appeared in the 1990s and everybody hoped it would go away. But no. Put simply, the learning paradigm suggests that instead of education being about teachers teaching, it should be about learners learning. Just imagine.

This blinding apercu gives us another insight into what academics do all day. Coming up with new bits of jargon to state the bleeding obvious gets you a cushy job in a nice warm college, with your own parking space. Write a book about it and you're a professor.

Needless to say, such a juicy umbrella concept like this is itself a massive jargon generator. So enquire within, if you think you're hard enough, on such things as learning-centredness, discovery learning, life-long capable and - hang on to your chalk here - learning-real world integration. No, I don't know what it means either.

Under this new paradigm we are informed that productivity is defined as cost per unit of learning per student. Try that one out on the school accountants. Presumably they'll have to give all the students an end-of-year quiz, and then divide the budget by the number of right answers.

Here at St Jude's we were rather keen on the idea of all our pupils discovering things for themselves, educating each other in small groups and generally being learning-centred. It sounded so much easier than teaching.

We explained it to them carefully, and set them all off along the path of lifelong capable world integration.

It must be admitted that the survivors learned a great deal, although it did become very expensive, as the cost per unit of learning per student goes up every time another student disappears. They certainly acquired many new skills and any amount of knowledge, all of which will stand them in good stead should they ever be called on, say, to overthrow a medium-sized third-world country. Unfortunately, they departed somewhat from the national curriculum along the way, and we had some explaining to do to the inspectors.

Needless to say, everything that happened was our fault. It's always the same: we're damned if we do teach, and damned if we don't. I'm sure there's a paradigm in there somewhere.

Tim Homfray

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