When thinking about schooling and education there is always a lot of discussion about readiness and the things that must be done to have a child ready for school, ready for the next class, ready go to college or university . . .
While I agree that a learner must be ready to take the next step, to broaden understanding of a concept or to grasp the complexity of deeper issues; just what that readiness requires is often up for conjecture.
Back in the early days of my teaching experience workbooks of ‘reading readiness’ exercises were frequently used with students in their first year of school. These activities generally required children to identify the one that was different in a group of objects. The exercises, such as those shown below, progressed through various levels of difficulty with the aim of preparing children for reading.
Fortunately our understanding of how reading is learned has progressed since then and it is now recognised that exercises such as those did little to prepare children for learning to read. We now know that the best preparation for reading is to be immersed in language through conversations, with adults especially; to be read to frequently; and to develop a love of books and interest in print by sharing with others. The role of parents in preparing children for reading cannot be underestimated.
This week I watched a video of a presentation by Yong Zhao about a type of readiness he referred to as “Out of basement readiness”. I admit I hadn’t heard the term before but the concept is definitely familiar.
I do recommend you listen to Zhao’s talk. It is interesting, thought-provoking and humorous. I think I enjoyed listening to this talk as much as to Ken Robinson’s on How schools kill creativity which I have mentioned in previous posts here and here, amongst others. However at 55 minutes some of you may not be willing to commit the time. For me, it is 55 minutes of my life I’m very happy to not get back!
I will not attempt to share all the content of the talk; there is too much of value, but here are just a few snippets that resonated with me:
Zhao explains out of basement readiness this way:
Zhao says that students are being mis-educated, that they are being educated for something that doesn’t exist, and suggests that we should remove several phrases from the language we use to talk about education, especially
- Evidence based
- Data driven
His description of the traditional education paradigm will be familiar to any frequent readers of my blog. He says that it is “about forcing people to do what some other people prescribe them to do” and that we reduce it to just a few subjects that can be tested.
He talks about the “homogenisation” of schooling, and explained that homogenisation was the best way of getting rid of creative people and innovative thinkers.
He mentioned kindergarten readiness tests, and suggests that the only test should be whether the kindergarten was ready for the children and parents.
He recognises the uniqueness of every student, with different backgrounds, motivations and talents; and stresses the importance of effort. He says, “You cannot be born to be great. If you do not put effort into it you can never be good at it.” He explains it this way:
“If you put ten thousand hours into something you are good at, something you are interested in you get great talent. But if I force you to spend time on something you have no interest in, you hate and something you are not good at, you at best become mediocre.”
He says that countries that produce high test scores, score low on confidence and interest.
“Everyone is born to be creative, that’s a human being, that’s our gift: to be able to adapt, to learn and relearn and do new things. But school has typically tried to suppress it (with) . . . short term learning. . . Direct instruction may give the short-term gain but cause long term damages Studies show that if you teach children how to play with the toy, they lose creativity, lose curiosity and if you allow children to explore more they may not test very well but they maintain creativity and curiosity.”
Zhao says that “our students do not fit into a future world, they create the future world. This is why we need a different type of education.” He says that “education is to create opportunities for every individual student, they are not an average, they are not a probability, they need to be improved as individual human beings.”
I couldn’t agree more. What do you think?
I was led to Zhao’s talk via Diane Ravitch’s blog which is about the education system and situation in the US. Much of what she writes has applications further afield and I recommend it to anyone wishing to stay informed of current issues in education.
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts on any aspect of this post.