Susan Peacock on Year 6 SATs

Powerful and distressing personal account of the harm caused by our toxic cultural obsession with an ‘evidence base’, and our drive to define value only in terms of what can be categorised and measured. Shades of Charles Dickens’ ‘Hard Times’, and Utilitarianism, at infinite cost to personhood and a child’s innate abilities in a supportive environment to actualise in enhancing ways (for self and other/community), and direct their own learning.

The reality is that our ‘evidence’/test-based educational culture – even on its own terms – is less effective than systems such as they have in Finland, where there is little testing, and children are given far greater opportunities to flow with their energies, connect with nature and follow their own learning threads and enthusiasms. This is from an article in the Smithsonian:-

‘There are no mandated standardized tests in Finland, apart from one exam at the end of students’ senior year in high school. There are no rankings, no comparisons or competition between students, schools or regions. Finland’s schools are publicly funded. The people in the government agencies running them, from national officials to local authorities, are educators, not business people, military leaders or career politicians.’

The whole of this – worthwhile – article by LynNell Hancock is here. It makes an interesting and inspiring read:-

Here’s another excerpt:-

‘I headed east from Espoo to Helsinki and a rough neighborhood called Siilitie, Finnish for “Hedgehog Road” and known for having the oldest low-income housing project in Finland. The 50-year-old boxy school building sat in a wooded area, around the corner from a subway stop flanked by gas stations and convenience stores. Half of its 200 first- through ninth-grade students have learning disabilities. All but the most severely impaired are mixed with the general education children, in keeping with Finnish policies.

A class of first graders scampered among nearby pine and birch trees, each holding a stack of the teacher’s homemade laminated “outdoor math” cards. “Find a stick as big as your foot,” one read. “Gather 50 rocks and acorns and lay them out in groups of ten,” read another. Working in teams, the 7- and 8-year-olds raced to see how quickly they could carry out their tasks. Aleksi Gustafsson, whose master’s degree is from Helsinki University, developed the exercise after attending one of the many workshops available free to teachers. “I did research on how useful this is for kids,” he said. “It’s fun for the children to work outside. They really learn with it.”’

There is lots of debate about what the Finnish results mean, and how sustainable they are.  Time will tell…. From a person-centred perspective, it seems natural that a system that operates more to child-centred principles and allows personhood/autonomy to children, teachers and schools will be more effective than a system characterised by top-down governance, with the emphasis on standardisation, metrics and compliance, regardless of the cost in human terms. Is it okay with us that any child has the experience Susan describes? Let alone the repeated accounts of this nature  we have seen following the recent round of testing…. Even if academic results appeared to bear out this approach, it would be unacceptable.

Palace Gate Counselling Service, Exeter

Counselling Exeter since 1994


This entry was posted in actualizing tendency, autonomy, child development, cognitive, compassion, conditions of worth, core conditions, creativity, cultural questions, education, empowerment, ethics, external locus, growing up, parenting, person centred, person centred theory, political, power and powerlessness, resilience, sadness & pain, self concept, self esteem, shame, shaming, teaching, trauma, values & principles and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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