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January 21, 2005

Bizarro World Education Policy

Kimberly Swygert has a post about an education reform that is as out there as Anti-Racist Math. Try this one on for size - schools where the pressure for teaching students falls completely on the parents:

All 12-year-olds at a comprehensive will be told today that homework is being scrapped because teachers have better things to do than mark it.

Dr Patrick Hazlewood, the head teacher of St John's in Marlborough, Wilts, who has already scrapped subject teaching, will not put it quite like that, of course.

He will tell them that, to make their schooling more "relevant to life in the 21st century", they are to be given responsibility for "managing their own learning".


Parents, who were told on Monday, are confused because, according to school policy, "regular homework is an essential element of learning and contributes to the development of sound study habits". They are also asked to say if they think their child has been given too little.

St John's sees itself as at the forefront of radical educational change and Dr Hazlewood is testing a futuristic project devised by the Royal Society for the Arts which rejects the notion that a teacher's job is to transmit a body of knowledge to pupils.

The project aims instead to encourage pupils to "love learning for its own sake" and the project is intended to replace the "information-led, subject-driven" national curriculum with one based on "competences for learning, citizenship, relating to people, managing situations and managing information".

The point of schooling, the RSA says, is to acquire competence not subject knowledge. It believes that exams only impede pupils' progress.

At St John's, which has 1,450 pupils aged 11 to 18 - 250 of them 12-year-olds - replacing first-year subjects with "cross-curricular projects" of the kind that used to be popular in primary schools was the first step. Allowing the pupils to mark each other's work was the second. Scrapping homework is the third.

"Homework, like the national curriculum, is a dinosaur," Dr Hazlewood told The Telegraph. "It is repetitious, generates marking that is often just a load of ticks and causes conflict at home.

"I want to give pupils responsibility for, and ownership of, their own learning. I want parents, many of whom are disengaged, to become pro-active partners in the process."

The national curriculum drove teachers into the ground and created a "society of damaged learners". He added: "The time has come to let sunshine flood through the classroom window and place the learner at the centre of all endeavour."

A mother who asked not to be named said: "My daughter has always taken pride in her homework. It gives her the push she needs.

"But Dr Hazlewood told us that it is a waste of time. Of course, he knows more than me but I am very worried about it."

The Department for Education said that homework was "an essential part of a good education". At the same time, its "innovation unit" is helping to pay for the RSA project.

So let me get this straight - the mission of the schools will be to indoctrinate the students into being model citizens who share the same values as the school officials and the job of parents will be to teach the subject matter abandoned by the teachers as being too difficult, and irrelevant for our times. Captain Ed has more.

Be sure to click through on Kimberly's updates about a honors calculus student suing because of summer homework. I thought this was the best part:

"These students are still children, yet they are subjected to increasing pressure to perform to ever-higher standards in numerous theaters," the suit said.

School administrators have told the family that honors courses require some summer work.

Still children? The student is 17 and is chosing to take a calculus class where he knew the requirements before he committed.

Posted by TangoMan at 01:29 PM