The Future Of Education: There Are Two Things That Really Work

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In an interview with HundrED, Lord Jim Knight talks about the challenges that teachers face, and the role of government in education.

Teachers face massive challenges because of policy makers. Policy makers impose all of these different things that they want teachers to do and get in the way of them being professional.

In the context of technology there will always be a debate around teaching and learning. When books were invented they were regarded as cheating for education because you didn’t have to remember everything, you could write them down. And yet it turns out that books were quite good for learning! And we can repeat the same story with radio and television. We now have computing and personal devices - I think they’re valuable and valid tools for teaching and learning, but I also think that teachers are having to grapple all the time with the extent to which they embrace it and the extent to which they manage it.

Teaching and learning in schools ought to reflect and be relevant to the real world. The real world is a digital world, so teachers are also having to grapple with the anachronism of what they’ve got, what they were trained to do and testing that is still done in large halls on small desks with a paper and pen. So, it’s a time of rapid change and I think that’s really hard for teachers. If in the end we believe that relevance and the real world in the classroom is a good thing, and assessment then needs to reflect what happens in the classroom.

Governments and politics have a really legitimate place in education because it is so important and education does need to be accountable. I believe in taxpayer funded education. I don’t believe in the private system, and if the taxpayer is going to pay for it the taxpayer needs to know that the people who are spending their money are accountable for that.

I believe it’s important to be clear about when government should and shouldn’t intervene. I am moving away from thinking that we need a national curriculum, certainly beyond the age of about twelve or thirteen. Government has a responsibility to fund it, to ensure that we have enough high quality teachers, to ensure we’ve got some reasonable environments for learning, and to ensure that parents get reasonable feedback about how their kids are doing. I’m not sure we need to do much more than that.

In the end, the evidence seems to suggest that there are two things that really work: one is really good teaching, and the other is a student’s own expectation of their achievement. We should focus on those two really hard jobs: how can we recruit and train, and keep training the profession? And how can we raise the ambitions of children for themselves?

To read Lord Jim Knight’s full interview, visit

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