We The Educators — a personal perspective

Catalysing a global conversation about our children’s future and their education

This week saw the culmination and launch of several months work with a wonderful international team of collaborators intent on starting a new conversation about the future of public education.

What started off as a discussion at the end of 2016 about a literature review exploring the relationship between the standardisation, privatisation and datafication of public education developed into something even more substantial in the form of short form animations, a detailed literature review and a global campaign to ignite conversations in 3 languages.

Launch of We The Educators at the Unite for Quality Education & Leadership Conference, Rotterdam, May 3rd 2017

Despite an emergent trend for teachers attempting to engage with evidence and research for what works in teaching and learning the field has rapidly become fertile ground for charlatans, bureaucrats and technocrats with vested interests.

We The Educators is an attempt to inform and catalyse a rich public dialogue — and greater professional scrutiny — around the relationship between the datafication of education systems and the (de)personalisation, privatisation and standardisation of student learning.

Public education has been under attack for many years well in advance of the emergent technological systems of big data, learning analytics and artificial intelligence. Multi-national text book suppliers have, for nearly a century, sought to monetise public education by ensuring that their sacred and copyrighted texts would be vital to what we typically think of as education.

For years the publishing and copyright industry ensured scarcity and thus a high price for access to this knowledge. In the digital age this industry came under threat as texts became freely available via mobile devices and an internet connection. To retain its hegemony the industry established a measurement practice and awarding bodies who measure student ability to remember these texts in standardised tests and exams. The language of the teaching profession and assessment became hijacked by those with a fetish for arbitrary measurements of memory recall and filling the boots of corporate shareholders. Subsequently the craft and practice of teaching has come under intense pressure to be a content delivery service.

The attempt to standardise the practice of teaching as an industrial process has lead to a migration from craft production to mass production where the scientific method has been deployed without mercy and where teachers are made rather than born like data-driven production workers on an assembly line or the equivilant of Uber drivers following scripts from iPads.

The industrialisation of everything has been more than 100 years in the making and it’s logical conclusion is automation. After all, everything that can be measured will be automated and the only jobs of the future will be the ones that machines can’t do. If we accept that the purpose of education is to train kids to pass tests then talented and qualified teachers are an unnecessary luxury — at least for the schools that policy makers don’t send their children to. And so in the UK, for example, we are seeing the re-introduction of selective schools in the public education system and multi-tiered levels of provision that only serve to divide society further.

Organisations from OECD to the World Bank who view the world through the lens of neo-classical economics imagined that they can quantify the human experience through a set of impenetrable frameworks that only the high priests understand. And yet humans, as we’ve seen with the rise of right wing populism, aren’t rational.

Datafication, or the collection of data to be analysed and converted into new forms of value, represents a new kind of oil that can be mined to generate mind boggling wealth for corporations best placed to exploit it. It also has, as we have seen, profound implications for democracy.

But datafication can only exist as a result of the journey from personalisation to standardisation and then privatisation.

By releasing valuable resources into the creative commons We The Educators hopes to provide teachers, parents and policy makers with the ammunition for conversations and a greater understanding of what is at stake before we, as a society, do something that we might later regret.

A healthy, functioning democracy can only exist where populations have equitable access to high quality education within their own context and culture. The processes of standardisation, privatisation and datafication have the potential to drastically narrow the curriculum while reducing learner choice, inclusion and teacher autonomy. Such a system can only deliver automatons at a time when we need the exact opposite.

You can find all the resources for We The Educators at:

and across all social media platforms by just searching for “We The Educators” or using the #WeTheEducators hashtag.

You’re not obligated to agree with everything we have produced but I hope you will join us in sharing these resources with your networks and having conversations about the vital global issue of our children’s education.

Also available in short form clips and in Spanish & French at WeTheEducators.com

My part in this project was to percolate the thinking, develop the scripts and direct the animation, media production and digital campaign none of which I could have done without being part of a fabulous team. In no particular order I would like to thank Phil McRae, Lindsay Yakimyshyn and Yuet Chan from Alberta Teachers’ Association; Cassandra Hallett and Bernie Froese-Germain from the Canadian Teachers’ Federation; Angelo Gavrielatos, Nikola Wachter and Mar Candela from Education International; my motion graphics and art director Oscar Mantilla; and sound designer Pauline Le Caignac.

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If you’d like me to present this work in a keynote for your conference or meeting please get in touch.

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