As an educator, it breaks my heart to watch, as national education systems seem to become more and more standardised, with a high focus on testing students at every opportunity. We all know that standardisation and testing do not drive learning; we have known it for years. In fact, quite the opposite is true: collaboration, creative thinking and reflection are the stuff of true learning.
Where I come from in the UK, we have a saying that goes, ‘you don’t make a pig any fatter just by weighing it’, and that is so true in education. Our children don’t get any smarter just because we test them more.
Dan Pink, in his book, A Whole New Mind, makes the point that the future will be dominated by those who can think creatively; those who can come up with new ideas of value. He calls it the ‘rise of the right-brain thinkers’.
Professor Yong Zhao, in his book, World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students, argues that the key to future economic success is not the ability to take standardized tests, but the ability to think outside the box. He researched those countries that tend to do well on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) exams, compared to those who do well on the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) and found an almost inverse correlation. In other words, countries with high entrepreneurial tendencies often had high GDP per capita and often did not do well on the PISA tests.
Here at the British International School of Houston, we place a very high emphasis on creative thinking and the Arts in general. Our collaboration with the Juilliard School of the Performing Arts, provides our students at all ages with world-class curricular and co-curricular programmes. In addition, we focus our efforts towards personalised learning rather than standardised testing.
Of course, when it comes time to take those standardised tests, our children tend to do very well anyway. Our consistent average IB score of 37 points puts our students among the world’s elite. It just goes to show that when you focus on feeding your students rather than just weighing them, they tend to learn a lot.
You can read Professor Zhao’s recent article here.
Andrew Derry, Principal