Repositioning - moving education into the heart of British culture
In 2013 The National College for School Leadership sent 23 National Leaders in Education to the Shanghai and Ningbo regions of China with participants observing the teaching of maths and science in selected schools following the regions’ consistently high performances in Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) rankings. The report noted the startling cultural differences between these regions and the UK in terms of the value placed on education. One of the recommendations in the report was that there should be a national campaign to ingrain the paramount importance of high-level literacy, mathematical and scientific skills for our children. The National College’s call for a repositioning of British attitudes towards education mirrors calls by UNESCO and the OECD25 on the need to improve, globally, the image and status of the teaching profession. Schools must be inspirational places to walk past, they must be inspirational places to work in, for both staff and children, and equally, their successes must be well-communicated to project a positive media image in order to make the profession more attractive to future recruits. The National College report makes clear the impact of the high value Asian families place on education – a value which is repeatedly reinforced in Asian culture and folklore. The report also highlights that one of the main reasons these regions score so highly in these rankings is not because of the performance of their top students – but because of the small gap between high and low performers; high quality is matched with high equality.
The EWF aspires to bring about a repositioning of education so that it is at the centre of our national philosophy, a cognitive shift in the national consciousness and changed perception of all that education can be. The UK has a long history of repositioning previously accepted (and often deep-rooted) societal norms from the hard-won rights of universal suffrage in the 1920s to the removal of corporal punishment from schools in the 1980s, and the public disapproval of drink driving, sex discrimination, racism and homophobia. Now is the time to adopt the real underlying reason for Asian success in PISA rankings – and that means developing a new education focused culture; embracing the mantra ‘without education – nothing’. Yet perhaps more significantly, we should strive to ensure this cultural mantra does not simply comply with the current move towards a reductionist educational policy, but adapt it so that it becomes the aspirant which demands and supports a well-rounded, diverse experience that focuses on the virtues of inspiration and ambition. The nature of the proposed projects, as well as the fundraising and marketing strategies of the EWF, are purposefully designed to act to move education into the heart of our culture.