Who had 21st Century Skills? A bingo review of chapter 2 of Steve Hilton’s new book.

Having made it all the way through this chapter of Hilton’s new book I felt that I could spare you the trouble of doing so by summarising the whole lot for you. It was quite easy as it is just a mish-mash of the same old stuff. You could make up bingo cards of all your favourites, add in a few examples and you’d get there just as easily. Now there’s an idea. Off you go and make progressive bingo cards and read along with me (see, catering for kinaesthetic learners and everything). Direct quotes are in “” and my editorial is in ().

Right everyone, have your bingo cards at the ready. Eyes down for a full house:

South Korea (boo!). Parents want children to achieve so they work hard… and lots commit suicide. We aspire to that (apparently both go together).

Teacher Who Agrees With Hilton (hereafter TWAWH) number 1 closed the gap by letting kids do their own stuff. Hassled by ‘the man’. Founded Khan Lab School which is ‘mastery based’ (whatever that means). Kids build things out of papier maché: ‘makers’ as well as learners. Freedom to choose what they work on when etc. Teacher doesn’t manage behaviour “it’s the teacher that holds that value [that] never passes on to the students”. Students schedule own lessons “if they think they need instruction”. Hilton’s own child goes there.

UK system like South Korea (boo!), treat students like statistics. Tests ignore deeper learning, take out creativity, individuality forcing children to be all the same rather than letting them evolve naturally. Regimented top-down approach…students mass produced…schools literally designed to resemble factories…19th century mindset. Relentless drilling and testing…neglect more important skills. PISA bad, very bad. Children need to be creative & collaborative to succeed in 21st Century (yay, there it is). Schools have bells, just like factories (been reading KR?). Our system rooted in industrial past, ignoring different learning styles (wtf?), multiple intelligences. Need to succeed on globalised, changing world – need empathy, grit, resilience (I thought last two were the same?) teamwork, problem-solving, innovation, critical thinking. These are 21st Century Skills (never needed them in 1999?). Teamwork leads to even more learning. Kids grow up learning tests but no character.

TWAWH2, describes two kids who turn up at age 4 with nasty parents, leave school with no quals & join gangs. It’s the school’s fault, cos no social & emotional learning or 21st C skills. Mindfulness (here we go) reduces mental-health problems, makes children better. “They will be entering the twenty-first century world with twentieth-century skills”.

Gradgrind (boo!). Finland (hurrah!) – Teachers are clever, not middle-class failures like UK. They learn not just to teach but how to learn. They’re good, so politicians trust them – it’s having tests that keeps good graduates away from teaching here. They teach less – less teaching=more learning – how much can you learn in passive lecture format. They are all educational researchers & have sense of collaboration and friendly rivalry. New York, Bloomberg, Small Schools of Choice – holistic, not century-old, one-size-fits-all. Academies can avoid systems, rules, curricula (so we have them already?) but not enough “fresh, innovative and more human schools on offer”. Media companies (boo!) hovering, arguing against teacher autonomy, mania to produce endless data. Teachers are amazing people (yay!) but are shackled.

TWAWH3 – tests show “what you know what you can do”. Kids ‘disengaged’ by curriculum. Heard about Sugata Mitra (kaching!). He told the kids they had potential and they succeeded (just like Michelle Pfeiffer). All teachers should be like this. We need creative thinkers as teachers (not like us lot!). We should pay teachers more (finally, we agree on something!). The NUT could be an arbiter of professional quality (took me five minutes to type that, I was laughing so hard). Education system should match world’s dynamism and interconnectivity. End local monopoly, lots of small, local schools – 20, 30 to choose from (really? Even in Norfolk countryside?). Expensive? No, that’s just lazy, old fashioned thinking. One day in our schools, teachers and students treated like people (never!).

TWAWH4 found schools dehumanising, created Little Man School House (yes, that) – a safe space …. where children can challenge themselves on their own terms. Steiner schools good. Neuroscience proves it. UK learn to read too early. Right brain. Back to TWAWH4, who “rejected the idea the students should be taught anything. Activities that build skills and give them real world experiences. E.g. dressing up simulated run up to War of Independence (it’s Texas but I’m willing to bet no-one shot at them). TWAWH4’s “ultimate vision is for a school with no teachers at all”. At his school, “students meet weekly to make collective decisions about disciplinary matters, and punishments meted out by collective student group to any individual child are publicly displayed” (anyone else thinking of Lord of the Flies here?).

Diversity, innovation. Close down the factories. Free schools should make profit like in Nigeria. No tests – parents shouldn’t use test scores to decide. All the schools he’s described are fee paying (oh right, full of rich hipster kids – that’s why they aren’t burned down by September 3). Let’s make schools more human.

How many did you have? Did you have “jobs that haven’t been created yet”? “Digital natives”? “Flipped classrooms” miserably uncrossed at the end? Maybe he’ll get there in the next book.


3 thoughts on “Who had 21st Century Skills? A bingo review of chapter 2 of Steve Hilton’s new book.

  1. Brilliant. Interesting about Finland “teaching less” – because the sources I’ve found who actually know what they are talking about, or have seen more than one carefully pre-selected Finnish school, talk about desks in rows, lots of teacher talk, very little group work, textbook-based lessons, regular homework and testing, number grades at the end of each term, and students expected to work quietly on their own in class.

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