Sir Michael Barber, architect of many of the UK education reforms of the last decade and McKinsey’s education lead, recently spoke to teachers in Singapore.  As usual, Michael framed the situation in a unique and helpful way particularly on the aims of education.  He described what students should know and be able to do as E(K+T+L).

K is for knowledge.  Michael dismissed the ‘kids can just use a search engine’ argument against strong content standards, “Pupils need both theoretical and applied knowledge and the skills to go with it.”

T is for thinking “inductively and deductively, alone and in teams, logically and creatively, spontaneously and deeply.”

L is for leadership, “equipping students with the capacity to lead in their family, their workplace, their community, their world.”

The ability to know, to process in context, to act with sound judgement, is wrapped in E–ethical underpinnings. Barber suggests:

to thrive in vast, diverse cities, share the planet with other living things, preserve the wildernesses, generate economic growth without waste, resolve conflicts peacefully and deploy wisdom and judgment at moments of crisis. It is not “all relative”; these are matters of right and wrong on which the quality of life, and perhaps life on Earth itself, ultimately depend. Every interaction between adults and students is an opportunity to teach and learn these fundamental values. Great schools seize these opportunities.

Given the US preoccupation with “K” based standards, Barbers equation is a refreshing way to think about the aims of education.

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