The most extensive study of primary education in Great Britain in forty years slammed efforts by the Labor Government for its blatant interference in the education processes of the nation. The Cambridge University-based Primary Review, blamed centralised control of England’s primary schools which has led to a devastating impact on children’s eduction. Micromanagement, meddling and a succession of government edicts have killed spontaneity in the nation’s classrooms. Teachers have been stripped of their powrs of discretion. And the net result of a decade of new Labor government education “reforms” has almost certainly been a decline in the quality of education. The report concludes it would have been better if the government had done nothing at all!
The reports blasted government actions which have resulted in the imposition of a “state theory of learning” in which teachers are not only told what to teach but how to teach it. This has resulted in a sharp decline in the quality of learning because of the “narrowing of the curriculum and the intensity of test preparation.” The result is teachers have become expert in coaching children how to take tests.
The report traces problems to the introduction by the Conservative govenment of a national curriculum in 1988 wich was strongly extended by the arrival of Labor governments in the 1990s. Altough test scores have risen, it has been achieved at the expense of children’s entitlement to a “broad and balanced curriculum and by the diversion of considerable teaching time to test preparation.”
The reports from Great Britain should be carefully studied by Clinton and Obama staffs. The Democratic party in 2002 jumped on the Bush bandwagon of No Child Left Behind which exemplifies everything being discussed in the new reports from England. So-called “liberal” Democrats like Ted Kennedy accepted the NCLB program without any thought to its impact on teaching and learning. It is time for the Democratic Party to turn away from state-mandated standards and return control of education, not to teacher organizatins, but to teachers.
The most important goal of education “reform” should be on decentralization of teaching and learning by empowering schools to venture on the adventurous task of inventing a new education that will meet the needs of the 21st century. Frankly, Senators Clinton and Obama, that goal will not be achieved by education bureaucrats working in teacher organizations.