At a time when Julia Gillard is getting all gung ho about rankings and ratings for schools and students it is perhaps worth noting one of the key findings of the Nuffield Review, a major British study on secondary education, just completed by by Professor Richard Pring and Dr Geoff Hayward, from Oxford. Language matters, the Review argues in a report published this week by Routledge.
"The words we use shape our thinking. The Orwellian language (seeping through government documents) of ‘performance management and control’ has come to dominate educational deliberation and planning – the language of measurable ‘inputs’ and ‘outputs’, ‘performance indicators’ and ‘audits’, ‘targets’ and ‘curriculum delivery’, ‘customers’ and ‘deliverers’, ‘efficiency gains’ and ‘bottom lines’. There needs to be a return to an educational language.
Social and economic conditions inevitably impact upon the attempts of schools, colleges and work-based training providers to raise standards, to develop citizens and to mitigate the ill-effects of disadvantaged circumstances. History shows, however, the limits of educational reform in attempting to solve problems which have a deeper social and economic source.
Those social and economic conditions make many schools, colleges and work-based trainers the main providers of that care for the well-being, resilience and self-esteem of young people. This broader responsibility of educational institutions, though recognized in theory and though pursued by countless teachers1, too often goes unrecognized in the narrow ‘performance indicators’ by which schools, colleges and work-based training providers are made accountable by government."