As a passionate educationalist, I firmly believe in the value of education and the contribution it makes to social mobility and personal fulfilment. The biggest live experiment in education ever to take place during this pandemic is a testimony to rapid adaptability of young people to the new ways of learning. Although the facilitation of remote education deserves to be highly praised, my focus is on our young people, especially their motivation and commendable flexibility with embracing homeschooling. I am full of admiration for all children, and in particular the youngest, who have demonstrated maturity, resilience and perseverance with on-line learning, not to mention some ingenuity with resourceful avoidance tactics in some instances! Where barriers between home, play and school are blurred, our young people showed courage and determination with learning remotely.
Acknowledging unequal access to technology, not all children would have had the same learning experience. However, given all the uncertainty and the social isolation, I feel particularly uneasy with the rhetoric of “catch-up” and “no child left behind”. Such narratives are hardly positive or inspirational, indicating an element of failure from the start and, inadvertently, reinforcing it. In aiming for improvement, we must focus on personal growth and on every child succeeding. The narratives of “catch-up” and “every child succeeds” convey different messages as well as attitudes to growth. Crucially, we need to put the emphasis on personalisation of learning, where every child re-starts from their own place, not from where we think they should be.
Let’s put the well-being of our young people at the forefront of their return to schools with plenty of opportunities for social interaction with peers, creative pursuits and physical development. In the words of Pasi Sahlberg, “let them play” to aid their intellectual development and well-being.
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