Five education myths that Covid-19 shatters

Original Article Authors: S.J. Courtney, P. Armstrong, A Gardner-McTaggart, H. Gunter, B. C. Hughes, M. Innes, S. M.Raynor
(Institute of Education, Manchester University)

Article summary by Dr Stephen Whitehead

Five education myths that Covid-19 shatters

I have to admit a personal investment in this particular article — I just love it when myths get shattered and these seven academics from Manchester University’s Institute of Education, do just that.

Why do I like myths being shattered?

Well who on earth wants to believe in myths? Surely if humankind is to progress then facing reality is an essential part of that process. Myths are fine for children, but extremely dangerous for adults.

So allow me to take you through the five education myths now dumped in the dustbin of history by Covid-19. But first let the authors put this in context:

‘Five strong claims associated with contemporary education policy and practice have been revealed by Covid-19 to be myths, whose maintenance is a luxury made possible only in relatively stable times, and even then only through hard work made invisible through now demonstrably false claims that There Is No Alternative’.

MYTH 1: Teacher and leader efficacy can provide the solutions to children’s academic failure

This myth holds that privatisation and corporatisation of education is the only way to go, with schools badged like businesses offering simple solutions to complex social problems. Covid-19 reveals a starker reality in which the normalisation of home schooling exposes the massive social inequalities underlying educational underachievement.

Profit-driven education is not the solution to educational underachievement.

It may be okay for those families who can pay, but the growing number who cannot pay should not be left behind and right now, they are being.

MYTH 2: School leaders matter more than teachers and support staff

This myth’s function is to construct leadership as a commodity possessed by a few, evidenced through vision work. Leaders corporate language and dispositions superordinate them as much as their hierarchical position in the organisation.

Paying school leaders eye-watering salaries is going to do very little to improve what is going on where it counts — in the classroom. Covid-19 reinforces research findings showing that school leadership is important but teachers matter more.

Helping teachers do their job is the real job of school leaders.

MYTH 3: Schools and those who work or learn in them must be continuously surveilled

For decades now, the surveillance of teachers has been intensifying especially in Western education state systems. The result has not been improved educational outcomes but heightened stress on schools and their staff.

Covid-19 knocked that out the window.

Zoom lessons suddenly emerged and everyone was grateful for the heroic efforts put in by un-surveilled teachers working from home — not least parents.

With formal examinations cancelled and the metrics of expected levels, tracking, targets and flight paths rendered meaningless, teacher’s professional judgements must again become valued with power returning not to the performative inspection regimes but to the school-based professionals.

MYTH 4: Transferring power from the local authority (district) towards autonomous ‘leaders’ makes a positive difference to children’s learning

This myth signifies the depoliticization of education policy, connoted by its withdrawal from many areas of state provision. Its function is nothing less than to privatise public education through marketisation and corporatisation.

It is part of a wider myth which claims that ‘government is the enemy’.

Actually, as Covid-19 has shown, we all need governments especially in times of crisis otherwise the whole game just becomes a free-for-all with the wealthiest and most powerful surviving while the rest flounder.

Covid-19 experience proves that we need quality leaders in government, women and men who we can trust to ensure that education systems act as a system for the common good, for the individual’s profit.

MYTH 5: Education ought best to be understood, structured and delivered around the interests of the individual

Surely of all the myths to be shattered by Covid-19 it is the myth of individual freedom. There is no such thing as individual freedom — we are all in this together.

No one gets out alive if the humanity succumbs to global disaster.

The only hope is communality, sharing responsibility, accepting accountability, trust, truth, and disregarding all that nonsense about neo-liberalism being the saviour of us all (especially the saviour of education).

Clearly it isn’t.

Individuality favours the elites, not the masses. But Covid-19 is no respecter of elitism. Privatisation of education is not the answer to the problems that will be facing our children tomorrow.

As I say, I love it when myths get busted, and so for that at least I am very grateful to Covid-19.

Only those who have been living on another planet this past two years, or who do not give a damn about education provision being for the common good, could possibly believe that more privatisation of state education is the answer to our current, and future, challenges.

link: Five education myths that Covid-19 shatters | BERA

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