Precepts to use in everyday life

1. Think for yourself, 2. Be yourself, 3. Speak up, 4. Feel free to agree and disagree, 5. Be honest with yourself and others, 6. Be open-minded, 7. Avoid being judgmental and 8. Question everything - even your own thinking.

TOK Essay Titles May 2019

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Human Sciences - Education

Dear Student,

Is the present system of secondary education letting you down?

According to this article in the Mail-Online, the answer is a categorical 'YES'.

In what way exactly?

The central argument of the article is that the imposition of business 'performance management' criteria in schools is undermining our children's education. This raises three important issues:

First, that the government is attempting to legislate for the education of children by pushing through a system for measuring student learning that is fundamentally flawed because it distracts everyone from the essential goals of education. These goals are, as the writer neatly articulates, to enable students 'to take responsibility for themselves, treat others with respect and care for the environment...[to] promote justice and respect...[and to] foster intellectual virtues, encouraging children to be open to evidence, argument and criticism.'

Second, that this fallible system is being driven through by mediocre school managers, often incompetent teachers themselves, on sheep-like teachers without being questioned. These teachers are in turn creating sheep-like students - a little bit like European Union regulations about fruit and veg that have to be a certain size before they can be sold in a shop. Remember, there are stories about apples that have to be passed through a template with a specific sized hole cut into it before they are acceptable for sale! Do you believe that education should make you jump through hoops and over obstacles like performing monkeys at a circus?

And thirdly, that the language which is used to get students to talk about their learning is brainwashing them into becoming commodities for the market place - they stop questioning the process at the very heart of their mental and physical development. This commercialisation of education is an insidious process because it addresses students not as human beings, but as abstract objects which enter into the system with a particular level and leave it with another level and a 'value added' score that measures progress or regress.

The Nuffield Review, a research-based group in Oxford, states that in many schools in the UK which are driven by the target setting culture, and the corresponding linguistic jargon that goes with it, 'the consumer or client' has replaced 'the learner'. The impact of this on our education system has so reduced confidence, the article claims, that '45 [UK Universities] are setting their own admissions tests to help them distinguish between the most able candidates' as an alternative to accepting 'A' Level and IB grades at face value.

So next time you go to a 'Target Review' meeting, you might like to reflect on this execrable state of affairs more seriously...

We propose two principles that an educationalist might like to ponder before he attempts to overhaul the education system. Both knowledge claims, we think, are based on sound empirical evidence and would lead to the creation of the best possible human beings and the best possible society - feel free to add to the list:

1. If a teacher can connect with a student on different levels, then there is no need to legislate for learning: the student will do anything to learn by himself for himself and not just for his parents or to get a Diploma or for the prospect of being merely a commodity in the job market.

2. If a teacher is happy and fulfilled in his job, then the students will be correspondingly happy and fulfilled in their learning - target setting and measuring 'value added' scores and testing makes neither feel happy or fulfilled.

So lots of COURAGE to all of you students out there - be awake to your work and get on with it quietly, efficiently and creatively.

Yours caringly,


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