Future Schlock

It must take a special kind of chutzpah to double down on your own woolly education philosophy when data from your own organization consistently belies it. But Andreas Schleicher has never had a problem with this.

Despite the PISA results (for what they are worth) repeatedly suggesting, even on cursory analysis, that education systems which favour explicit direct instruction and “traditional” methods achieve superior results, Herr Schleicher is sticking to his guns, assuring us that in the future:

The next generation of young citizens will create jobs, not seek them, and collaborate to advance a complex world. That will require imagination, empathy, resilience, and entrepreneurship….a world that requires constant adaptation from learners…

It is becoming an unassailable truism in education that whenever a policy wonk or edu-guru lays claim to clairvoyance in this manner, they are doing so to distract attention from the fact that in the present, their preferred policies are failing miserably. But all will be different in the future, you see.

The other distinct red flag in the passage above is the mention of entrepreneurship. Herr Schleicher is a leading light of the worst-of-both-worlds tendency in education (see this blog passim), in which fluffy progressive posturing is allied with the Silicon Valley brand of stiletto capitalism. Philistinism is a core value of this particular educational philosophy:

There is a lot that government and society can do to help learners adapt. The easiest is telling young people more of the truth about the relevance of their learning, and to incentivise educational institutions to pay more attention, too.

Buckets are available on request.

Needless to say, self-satisfied CEO types relish all this “relevance” spiel, abetted frequently by politicians of a certain stripe. Some particularly inane Twitter comments by one of these recently led the redoubtable Carl Hendrick to re-post his outstanding blog piece on the mistaken “preparation for the workforce” attitude to education.

Let’s just look at one of the assumptions underlying Herr Schleicher’s waffle. What indications are there that the young people of tomorrow will “create jobs, not seek them”? What straws in the wind suggest that they will all need to be entrepreneurs in a few years’ time?

One would expect there to be credible evidence that small business startups are becoming more successful by the year. Yet all the (admittedly little) information I have been able to gather would suggest that failure rates for startups are either steady or increasing (there are some interesting graphs on this page).

If prognostications are based on observable trends, then those who purport to know the future can speak with a little confidence, tinged with a lot of caution. But without such trends to inform their commentary, they are simply groping in the dark like the rest of us.

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