Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Joined up working for global governance in education


Children`s services in Scotland have drawn together departments such as health, social services, education, criminal justice and the third sector. To begin with,  the Integrated Children`s Services initiative (1998 - 2004) was directed towards more disadvantaged children but as it evolved it was constructed to cover all children and young people in Scotland.
"It is a major contributory element to the shift in the content and pedagogy of schooling that might be summarised as the dilution of the academic tradition in schooling of the past. It is replaced by a focus on attitudinal and dispositional characteristics notably in the development of the Curriculum for Excellence. This shift is part of a global trend."
For instance, there is a greater focus on self regulation in health, developing self-confidence and wellbeing, and a do-it-yourself lifelong learning approach. As the speaker in the above video attempts to explain (but doesn`t), these changes in the Scottish curriculum are meant to improve Scotland`s role as a knowledge based economy. But as the previous paragraph discloses `knowledge` is not being used in the way it is ordinarily understood.  On the contrary, knowledge is based on what computer algorithms can do:
As people move through different stages in their lives, `important information` travels with them and this information can be collated, monitored and interpreted by service providers. It may even be used as a basis for calculating future needs.
" Because knowledge is central to Integrated Children`s Services, the report signals the importance of new, policy-based forms of knowledge."

According to the speaker in the above video, 25,000 people in Scotland, mostly parents, got together and decided that Scottish education had to change. But that is not how things really work. Think tanks, philanthropies, businesses, consultants and international organisations have long been involved in the governance of education. Now there is another entity taking part and that is the `policy innovation lab.`

Policy based forms of knowledge

The National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (Nesta) was established in 1998 by the Labour government and became a not-for-profit organisation under the coalition in 2012.

Nesta describes its `public policy lab` as "not so much a think-tank but more of an experimental workshop that prototypes new forms of public service delivery by working across the public, private and social enterprise sectors to create socially useful and usable ideas." It encourages policy innovation labs across the globe to network, taking the integration of departments and organisations, in the name of `service delivery,` to a whole new global level.

"It uses digital tools and data science methods, such as data mining, data analytics, and predictive `machine learning.`"

Nesta`s Innovation Lab endorses these methods in its approach to innovations in education. They agree with educators who promote assessments in schools that capture, track and monitor pupils` data in real time. "The next generation of assessments...should be able to identify features of student behaviour and make observations on it..[and] should collect dramatically large and ubiquitous samples of data across users. This data collection should be built into daily activity and used to drive and inform improvements in the innovation...Teachers should be supported to become `activators` and `change agents` with `students in charge of their own learning under the active guidance of teachers."

Education in the 21st century is less concerned with subject knowledge but it is very interested in pupils` attitudinal and dispositional characteristics and these will be tracked and monitored in real time as the experimenters tweak pupils` responses.

The method of the `policy innovation lab` is built on a vision of the desired future and the system is designed towards that outcome. Feedback determines the next iteration in the innovation, like outcome based education and Curriculum for Excellence itself. Although Nesta puts forward the view that policy innovations are non-political, neutral and evidence based, it is those behind the lab designers whose vision of the future will be implemented while they experiment on our children.  As we are being plunged further into austerity, so far the future they have in mind for many of our children does not look good; whereas those in control of the systems are benefiting enormously.

If we are to believe that 25,000 people in Scotland, mostly parents, decided that Scottish education had to change, it is a pity they were not able to see where it was heading.

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