Built without a foundation and yet on sand

Built without a foundation and yet on sand

Heretical thoughts on community schools and Curriculum 21

mw. School reforms are an interesting affair. Generations of educational scientists' findings are labelled as “no longer up-to-date” and thrown onto the rubbish heap. The corresponding teaching materials are disposed of as well. Teachers do not fare any better: those who rely on their own decades-old practical experience in teaching are ridiculed at best and sent off to early retirement at worst .
“He does not even realise that knowledge becomes so quickly obsolete that it is not worth storing it in your brain (this used to be called ‘learning’)!” Haven’t they heard anything about the half-life of knowledge? So stop that learning by heart! And why should anybody make the tedious effort and memorise multiplication tables or spelling rules when pushing a button delivers the correct results? Whole class instruction is completely outdated by the way – anybody is able to google on his own. And then there is this ingenious thing about individualised learning: Everyone can find their own solutions because the notion of right and wrong in today’s school does no longer exist. Hurrah, no more corrections of exercise books, all students are allowed to correct themselves – or what are those correction programmes for? Anyway, spelling used to be taken too seriously and today it is only important that the other people annestan you – did you mean ‘understand’?"
After millions and millions of tax money has been poured into “Lehrplan 21” in Switzerland (the so called Curriculum 21) and the community schools in Baden-Württemberg, and teachers have passed through the appropriate education and training programmes, a team of evaluators come along and find out that the brave new theories are untenable: “Neither the new teaching method of independent learning with teachers as learning coaches nor the inclusion or the special support of the weakest and strongest are successful.” Of course this is all top secret. Nobody would want the citizens to poke their noses into this! (source: Heike Schmoll, Studie zur Gemeinschaftsschule, Schwäbisches Himmelfahrtkommando, “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung”, from 17 Aug 2015). So in Baden-Württemberg they now quickly start with accompanying research to the already introduced “new” forms of learning – a little late, isn’t it? By the way, this study is pulled together by the same team which has pushed (‘encouraged’, excuse me) the community schools and the underlying ideology of individualised learning in “open” schools for a long time (http://www.erziehungswissenschaft.uni-tuebingen.de/forschung.html). Will they assess this totally unbiased?
Hush, don’t be so fussy: the main thing is to abolish the existing school system, sooner rather than later. In Switzerland, most cantonal curricula are at least 15 years old and therefore obsolete per se, according to the president of the German Swiss Conference of Education Directors. Imagine, curricula from 2000, they are almost prehistoric! Whatever they contain is in any case irrelevant.
For the implementation of these monumental projects the taxpayer must fork out more millions – or should we already say billions? For the transformation or new construction of Swiss elementary schools into learning environments with individual booths; for the equipment with hardware and software; for the training and supervision of teachers (we don’t want that anyone keeps teacher-centred lessons up, do we?); for the creation, implementation and evaluation of learning programmes and computer tests, including fees for the external testers. The entire tests in all “fields” (“subjects” are indeed outdated) in all three cycles of the Curriculum 21 will of course be computer-based, starting with the second year of primary school. This is logical: future communication is digital because it is good if the children in kindergarten or playschool already know to press the right button or know how to follow the contours of a circle or square on a screen with their fingers. The little ones then can pull the conceptual link from the digital circle to a circle of cardboard – or can’t they, not quite? What was that again about the children’s developmental stages ?
Let us stop such petty considerations, because Bill Gates and other child-friendly people ultimately want to sell their smartphones, tablets, laptops and whatever they are called to the people or rather the cantons and communes; every child from kindergarten onwards has its own tablet, with which it can spin the yarn of its own reality. Bertelsmann & Co are already waiting in the wings to produce the many expensive training and testing programmes.
And then, when everything is running smoothly to the approval of school reformers by the grace of the OECD, an annoying evaluation turns up and comes to the conclusion that nothing works as it was propagated from above … Which reminds me: our universities usually produce umpteen studies on everything and everyone. Only on this question of truly great importance, – whether it is better for our children if they are taught in the classroom by a teacher and by means of the relationship with their teacher, or if every child works on their own, by following their weekly schedule – there are apparently no useful studies in this country, only those which are now kept locked up in Baden-Württemberg. That is why in Switzerland a Government Council can now have the idea to replace our curricula because they have existed for a few years. That is why we still need to rely on the valuable study of a researcher from the distant New Zealand (John Hattie) for years and years, because our school is simply turned on its head without any reasonable argument, on the basis of mere allegations from the OECD, which have neither head nor tail, as every teacher and every set of parents know from their own experience if they are able to think clearly.
Well, in Switzerland we fortunately have the chance to prevent the introduction of the Curriculum 21 with a popular initiative in the individual cantons. In Baden-Württemberg there is incidentally a similar instrument, a referendum against the establishment of a community school, which was recently carried out and clearly accepted in Rielasingen. Unfortunately it did not achieve the prescribed quorum of 25% of the electorate – but in a democracy citizens may overcome that hurdle as well.    •

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