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Misplaced Purpose #500words

I think that somewhere in recent history some people lost track of what education was about. Suddenly it was less about teaching and learning, and more about statistics and accounting.

I remember vividly a departmental meeting several years ago at a former place of work where the entire teaching team got together to discuss the departmental operational plan. During the meeting the Director (department head) led the staff through various statistics and accounts of department income, department expenditure and SUM count (SUMs are an amount of money given to colleges for each student based on the course and level). At the end of the Director’s presentation most of the staff had been driven to distraction by the endless figures and statistics, and were finally told to form into small groups to discuss how the department could generate more income.

At my table a discussion began about running more evening classes and offering more professional training courses. I watched, disheartened, as my colleagues grasped at straws to appease the director and create ideas for generating more income.

At the end of the group discussions the director asked for a member of each group to feed back the outcome of the discussions. One by one each table repeated the same mantra – more evening classes, more training courses.

Finally it came to the table I was at. No-one volunteered to give feed back, so ignoring the discussion I stood and said what I had to say. It went something like this -

“I am appalled at the suggestion that our students are simply a SUM, a value on an accountant’s spreadsheet. If the Department Managers, Directors and Principals look into a classroom and see only little bags of money then I am ashamed to be part of this institution. Colleges are social enterprises, not businesses, and should be concerned with education not income. It is truly sad that education has come to this and all that seems to matter is the money. We are teachers. Teachers don’t see little bags of money when they walk into a classroom, they see people with hopes and aspirations. We see people who need nurturing and guidance. The little bit of money that is tagged onto each person is irrelevant to us. We’ll do what we can for these people irrespective of what value has been assigned to them, because teachers see the person. We don’t care about the money, we just care.”

The speech earned a round of applause from the congregation and probably also earned me the brand of ‘troublemaker’.

That’s it, that’s what I think is the purpose of education. It’s about caring. It’s caring whether your students do well, it’s caring about your students’ aspirations, it’s about caring enough that you’ll put in the extra hours to ensure the marking is done, it’s about caring enough to spend time updating your knowledge & skills. Caring leads to action, leads to transformation.

Most of all, education is about teaching others to care about the things that matter.


More #500words can be found at http://purposed.org.uk/

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  1. May 28, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    Awesome! Thanks for your contribution Colin. Cuts right through to the heart of the matter. It would be interesting to get a few comments on this from a range of Directors.

  2. May 29, 2012 at 8:20 am

    I agree Colin that with that sense of caring from the ‘teacher’ or ‘learner’ it makes the whole experience pointless!

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