This idea is one that needs embiggening though, throughout the rest of British society. The notion that measuring "things" (generally people, but not always) through "ritual" (generally exams, but not always) leads to those "things" tailoring themselves to the "ritual" is ubiquitous. Meeting targets becomes more important than doing what the targets set out to measure.
I know I've mentioned it before, but the latest issue (41) of The Idler is worth picking up. An article in it proposes seeing education as a "web", rather than a stilted, "linear" progression of knowledge. That is to say, learning comes from a social context, and an individual curiosity born from motivated passion. We learn by being interested, or amazed by something, and we remember it by figuring out how to apply that knowledge.
Schools and testing bear very little of this. There is, on the whole, a list of things our children must learn. Then we see how much of that they've remembered. There is little opportunity to explore an area for oneself or to do things that aren't, or can't be, marked easily.
This is not an easy question. Obligatory education for every child demands a certain way of thinking, and often the scale of the challenge threatens (or, indeed, over-rules) the original nature of the mission. Here, equality and efficiency rapidly become the keys to a sustainable system - education for all means a) the same quality of education for all, and b) a system that delivers this equality for as many people, but for as little money as possible.
Still, it's amazing to see that, back in March, Jim Knight suggested class sizes of 70 pupils. (Interestingly just the following day, a study supported smaller class sizes.) Can you imagine a classroom that size? Even with 3 or 4 helpers, the fragmentation occurring and/or the "surveillance" needed to control it would be... 'unhelpful'. One can only assume that economic questions, of overheads and of scaling factors, can lead Jim to such other-wordly conclusions.
The paradox inherent here, of course, is "equality" vs "individualism". Should smaller groups, or one-to-one teaching, be encouraged if it means those more "naturally" suited to learning gain more from it? Or should all children be subjected to the same despotic system in the name of fairness?
But fairness assumes that we all learn in the same way, and that our own priorities are the same as everyone else's. ("You don't like Maths? But Jimmy loves Maths! How can you have any Physics if you don't eat your Maths?!") Or, at least, that we all are capable of learning the same amount in the same way. Maybe that's it - maybe standardised tests aren't built for pushing people at all, but for pulling them back - for making sure they learn in the right way so that equality is maintained. (N.B. Equality is also standardisation, which makes industrial
In amongst ever-greater amounts of personal-customisation, web2.0 "choose your view of the world" perspectives, and potentially greater interaction with strangers from around the globe, is the era of large-scale education feasible? Or is it likely to be encouraged as a way of keeping the ever-blossoming population under some kind of control until they're old enough to be arrested? Or are we facing an educational fork, where those with the know-how (and the tech to go with it) can "afford" to run their own education systems, while those without are left to the management policies of the state?