Serendipity - or ...........

………………..just the key issues in education currently needing addressed

In the week we learned of Monkee Peter Tork’s death I have to confess “I’m a believer “.  A believer in serendipity for sure.

For years I’ve been thinking about an event I witnessed in a vocational college in Paris in 2007. The students in a hospitality course were being assessed during the lunch preparation and service. They had already undertaken a written task testing their knowledge. On this fine February day they were being assessed on their practical skills (knowing how to do - savoir faire) and in knowing how to be (savoir etre).
This notion of savoir faire / savoir etre has stayed with me these last 10 years or so.  I am positively sure that knowing how to do is important but that knowing how to be is vital.

In Scottish education in 21st Century do we or should we teach and learn ‘how to be’?  In the past week or so there has been debate about curriculum for excellence and the need to refocus and refresh the moral purpose and imperatives that led to the initial development.

I think this discussion about knowing how to be could add to that debate.  Surely the four capacities of curriculum for excellence contained the ambition to encourage responsible citizens and effective contributors.  These of course can be taught as skills – in knowing how to do but at their core is knowing how to be.  The same could apply to SHANARRI - the 8 well-being indicators – safe; healthy; achieving; nurtured; active; respected; responsible and included of Getting it Right for every Child.

At a Pedagoo session at the weekend I explored these ideas with a group of teachers.  I was delighted when a NQT stated that to teach ‘how to be’ teachers have to model the behaviours we want and need in society.  To be respected we have to respect; to be included we have to include etc

In the spirit of serendipity I was pleased this morning to read the tweet by @Tes “Staff need to feel happy to pass on positivity to pupils, says @janenolanOAT, winner of the #TesAwards headteacher of the year award”. 

Without pre-planning or even a quick chat it was amazing that at the teacher event at the weekend that the contributor after me, Dr Neil McLellan led a learning conversation entitled ‘Ergotherapy and Education’.   It was a marvellous session using historical perspective of solutions to ‘broken man’ to add to the debate about adverse childhood experiences and how we deal with these – or sometimes add to them in schools.  The subtext of Neil’s session was about the need to humanise education by focusing on how to be. A fuller piece on is worth a read.

It became clear to me that there is, in fact, nothing ‘new’ here.  The UNESCO 4 Pillars of Education in their current form: “learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together and learning to be” can be traced back over 40 years and the work referenced above to the early 20th century.

This also chimes with a very important education piece written last month by Walter Humes on the Sceptical Scot website.  It was entitled Seven reasons why Scottish education is under-performing” and who could disagree with reason one - the failure to learn from the past.

Past research and experience tell us that educating the whole person and educating for communities is a sustainable system and one which could heal ‘broken man’.

So, let’s all be daydream believers and work collaboratively to devise a system that values and puts the four pillars at the heart of Scottish education to get it right for every child, family and community.