Better approaches

I’ve been reading a lot over the past couple of weeks about Amartya Sen’s Capability Approach to social justice. At the heart of his idea is that, in topics such as economic development, we should consider human beings, not other, external, markers as the outcome. The concept of justice for Sen is one of every human being having the opportunity to be and do the things that are important to them.

Which of course made me think about education. Really, is there anything more core to what we do as teachers than wanting our students to have the opportunity to do what is important to them?

I’d argue most teachers want to encourage students to achieve this, but what we often find ourselves striving towards instead is a series of arduous – and sometimes arbitrary – academic targets.

In the UK, our system is driven by targets. Our schools are measured by league tables. Our teachers are judged on their classes’ exam results.

But maybe there is a better approach to target setting. For students with an EHC (Education, Health and Care) Plan, their targets per academic year are often set according to their long and medium term aspirations – in other words, according to the things they want to do or be.

Perhaps in the first term of meeting new students, if we found some time in our squeezed schedules to build a rapport and find the answer to those questions: what do you want to do? What do you want to be?, we could incorporate them in to students’ targets, in to lesson themes, maybe, God Forbid, in to the curriculum as a whole.

Now wouldn’t that be a better approach?