in Education

Keith Belshaw’s contribution to the #purposed debate

Keith BelshawMy father currently lives and works in the United Arab Emirates. He taught PE and Maths, and was Deputy Head in schools in the North East of England until he left for the UAE in 2009. He’s returning in July 2011.

In this (unsolicited) 500-word contribution to the Purpos/ed debate, Keith Belshaw uses his multi-faceted experiences as an educator, traveller, father and grandfather to question whether the institutions within which he’s spent his working life continue to be relevant in their current form.

Please do comment and ask questions below; I shall encourage him to respond to each directly. :-)


Purpos/ed “Education in the 21st Century”
Why? What? How? Where? Who?

Keith Belshaw

It is easy on this platform to forget that the majority of readers have gone through the tried and tested “traditional” route of “being educated”. By this I mean school followed by college/university and into a chosen profession, trade or job. For the majority, their outcomes -when viewed from the perspective of what is valued educationally by present day society – have been successful. There will have been real life experiences that have shaped outlook on life, morals and values. There will have been role models who have shown how things are done effectively. There will have been opportunities for learning co-operatively, experiencing cultural diversity and sensibilities in the “global village”. The different “intelligences” which we are given and learn will be factors in the way our relationships are formed – and with whom to a large extent. As this “growth” – intellectual and physical – matures over time, relationships built on the bedrock of mutual empathy, respect and healthy conflict resolution prosper. BUT…

…what is absolutely necessary in the 21st Century are adults who are critical thinkers, reflective problem solvers, who adapt and refine strategies and processes for the common good that is society. Above all, adults must pass on all these meta-cognitive skills that I have mentioned to the next generation, through extensive interaction with those children, and where positive modeling is evident.

School is now an outdated institution! The influences within can be harmful to the positive development of young children. Certainly, many parents will echo that viewpoint! Therefore, what skills and what knowledge will a youngster need before being let loose on the information technological overload that is “out there”?

With whom will they choose to learn? With their good friends! How will they learn? Looking at my grandchildren as they use software – I think we are missing a major opportunity for educational growth if games for all ages, which are motivational, intellectually stimulating, competitive, available and affordable  are not developed soon.

There needs to be ongoing assessment based on agreed rubric that covers all aspects of human development. This can be done at various “hubs” – centres which provide purely arts, or technologies, or mathematics and science, or sport. They should be able to be accessed 24 hours a day to suit the individual. The “hub” will have nationally agreed benchmarks that allow students to move from level to level in various aspects. Being able to study, investigate and explore when the motivation takes learners will be key to success. Universities will eventually be on-line and open to all, being the ultimate certificate providers at every level. So who learns? Everyone! No-one stops learning – learning is life-long! The system needs overhaul to afford opportunities for learners to opt in – opt out – and then opt back in again. We need to make education totally flexible, relevant, readily available with support – and FREE!

A civilized country is measured by the number of educated people in it’s population!

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  1. 24hr hubs of learning: vote 1 for that. Never understood why sport after school considered play, but physics, mathematics and similar subjects considered work. Sport leads to careers, similarly dance, and music maybe, but little opportunity for other activities after school. Learning resources, beyond books, need to be more accessible.

    • Thanks for responding Conrad.
      I am thinking Global Village here – the sun never sets somewhere on the globe – so those learning “hubs” will be open and available for registering to – same with the Universities, if there was really a global network of “higher learning” that was totally supported by world governments that didn’t allow national ego to stop any/every good suggestion for progress – and we had some philanthropy from those who have too much money for them to spend in a lifetime – then life on this planet would flourish for the majority through the education that would be available to all and thus brings about advanced civilisation!! (Unfortunately there will still be “Mugabe’s” and “Gadaffi’s” about!)

  2. Oh this is so refreshing. Yet how do we implement such a change when parents are working long hours or in jobs that may be cut, and our 19th/20th Century educational institutions support the work, mortgage, trap so many are tied to?
    Wonderful vision of a future though!

  3. To christoclifford:
    It is difficult to reply to this – every family have their own circumstances and have to cope their own individual strategies. You know that i am Doug’s dad. My wife and I decided before Doug and his sister came along that my main job would be as provider and hers to be mother of our children. This I hope is what we continue to do. My wife has always had the same mantra – we don’t need a lot of money, just enough to live properly.It is the term “properly” that you have to invent for yourself – you know what you actually require, and that which you desire!

  4. To fboss:
    Sorry I meant to imply international hubs when in my first answer I wrote ” I am thinking Global Village here – the sun never sets somewhere on the globe – so those learning “hubs” will be open and available for registering to…” I will go further and say that it is my personal belief that education is above politics. I am dreaming now… we have many global networks for all sorts of things – we need a global “board of educational directors” who are beyond the influence of individual governments and individual politicians. To this “trust” could be given the global sum that all governments spend on education! Can you imagine what a dedicated board of educationalists could do with that sum of money without political interference and national “priorities”!!
    It has become the norm to educate for jobs – I beg to differ! If education was open, available to all and free, then everyone would strive for the level of education for which they personally wanted to attain. After each person has been given the same opportunity to get the basic knowledge and skills to go on and improve themselves… then from then on it is up to the individual person to access the education/information they need for that moment in their lives. I know that I, never in a million years, would have thought that Doug would have done a first degree in Philosophy… his choice… and one of the best that he has ever made… the other one was marrying his wife! Both have contributed greatly to man that is my son!

  5. Hi to Doug’s dad!

    we hear alot about you…

    Great post Keith and I love the hub idea in principle… but one of the things that I find most frustrating about the school curriculum is the way it separates subjects and loses the vital connections between them. So I would like to see a reconnection to the way we used to view and question the world – where science, philosophy and art are brought together. I wouldn’t want to see the hubs as ‘subject silo’s’ and I’m sure that’s not what you mean either but maybe as spaces for different kind of activities so maybe a hub to have discussions or debates, a hub for more quiet contemplation, a hub for collective activities…

    This is just an intitial response and I guess the idea of global hubs mean that some of these will be virtual spaces – and some of these already exist in some ways – places like flickr where people share and learn much more than just photos or multi-player games…

    thanks for the post