What is blocking real change in education?

What will it take to achieve real change in education? That was the question debated at an event which explored the steps we should be taking after a year in which the world of education has been completely shaken up.

What is blocking real change in education? was held by SHAPE Education, an initiative from Cambridge Assessment and University of Cambridge Judge Business School that seeks to connect the complex real-world problems of education with creative educational ideas and research to build the next generation of educational solutions and thought leadership for the good of global education.

The April event brought together people who represent key elements of the ecosystem: Dr Alison Wood, Academic Director of Homerton Changemakers at the University of Cambridge, Mohit Midha, Co-founder of Mangahigh, Andreas Schleicher, Director for Education and Skills at the OECD, Jon Smith, CEO of Pobble, and Valerie Hannon, Board Director of Innovation Unit.

In his talk, Andreas Schleicher spoke about the OECD’s Future of Education and Skills 2030 project which has identified three transformative competencies that students need in order to contribute to our world and shape a better future: creating new value, reconciling tensions and dilemmas, and taking responsibility. He said that technology was opening up great possibilities, for instance around the integration of learning and assessment, but that a challenge was that “education takes so much time to translate better ideas into better outcomes”.

Andreas’ talk was followed by a fireside chat with Alison Wood, who said: “We need a social change… At the heart of this is an imaginative change about what education really does and what it’s for”.

In her talk, Valerie Hannon praised the theme of the event, saying it was right first and foremost to ask what is blocking real change in education. Similarly to Alison, she said any conversation about change needed to begin with “new, real conversations about the purpose of learning and education”.

Mohit Midha said technology was helping to create “pull rather than push” education, where students wanted to learn rather than having to. But he said there were blockers to real change, particularly around support and funding, leading to the risk of a two-tier system. Similarly, in his talk Jon Smith said that funding was a barrier to change, but also teacher time and pressure and lack of infrastructure in some areas.

Dan Frost, Learning Technology Lead at Cambridge Assessment English and part of the team behind the SHAPE initiative, summed up the event. “The whole point of SHAPE is to do a lot of listening, to have events where we don’t know the answer and we don’t have the view because it’s about a future that we’re not sure about,” he said. “Today has really helped us try to understand the pain points of the people who are trying to change education”.

Recordings from the event are now available on this page and a full report on the day’s ideas will be produced shortly. The video above consists of drawings captured by SHAPE resident Graphic Recorder Rebecca Osborne.

Join us on 12 May for the next ‘SHAPE Live’, our new series of bite-sized events to an unlimited global audience, spotlighting key challenges within education. Ralph Tabberer, owner and Chief Executive, BBD Education, will be asking: "Does education need ‘faster horses’?"

Research Matters

Research Matters 28: Autumn 2019

Research Matters is our free biannual publication which allows us to share our assessment research, in a range of fields, with the wider assessment community.