My Thanks …
My thanks go to Chad Sansing (web site: http://classroots.org, twitter: @chadsansing ) for prompting this post.
His tweet was “what would make school relevant? what would happen school divs were portflios? what if we standardized authenticity?”
For people less acquainted with school divisions (like me!) he went on to explain “what if schl systems purposefully ran schools w/ unique missions/specialties instead of trying to make each the same“.
Hence this post.
The comments are below are cast in the light of my understand of typical Western countries, as I imagine was the background to Chad’s original questions.
Learners are all Different
It strikes me that there is a dichotomy between serving the needs of the individual leaner and society’s expectations of equality of opportunity, and that while this dichotomy has been stated for over two decades, there has been pitifully little progress during that time in resolving it.
An Historical Perspective
The 1944 Butler Education Act in the United Kingdom (Education Act 1944 http://www.experiencefestival.com/a/Tripartite_System_-_History/id/5544953) resulted in education becoming fragmented along social lines (http://www.jstor.org/pss/2264397). I have yet to see any evidence that such fragmentation has been eliminated or even reduced.
Schools of Excellence
I am aware of a number of schools in the UK that specialise in certain academic areas. By way of example, Kettering Grammar School was for a while internationally famous for its work in tracking satellites (http://www.svengrahn.pp.se/trackind/getstart/oldcyts.htm).
A Tricky Path
In an ideal world with unlimited resources, each person’s education would be provided in a way exactly tailored to that person. (I nearly wrote “… each child’s …”, as that where perhaps the bulk of education happened in my own childhood, but this is nothing like so true today.) However, the best that we can achieve in a practical sense is to deliver the best learning possible with the resources that we have available.
The matter is complicated by the existence of state schools and private schools. The tensions that are created by this split in schooling are perhaps inevitable; any further comment on that point is beyond the scope of this post.
I believe that there is merit in schools offering different balances of subjects to their students, this catering for different needs and ambitions. Having said that, there needs to be a minimum levels of skills (often confused with qualifications) possessed by every school leaver. The manner of how to achieve that is a hot debate both in the USA and the UK. (I would classify those skills as literacy, numeracy, and e-knowhow.)
The UK has a set of national standards that apply to all school leavers. There is some movement there to the International Baccalaureat as an alternative standard. These standards include a moderation process to ensure uniformity and consistency of marking. When I came to Western Australia, I was astonished to find that such moderation processes were not used even at the state level, let alone the national level. I commend such processes to everywhere that lacks them.