Learning or attainment – What would you choose?

Bob Harris wrote an excellent article last week  about the new DfE strategy educational technology. This post is not about that per se, I can’t add any more to Bob’s excellent critique, rather it’s about what has been stuck in my head since reading the post, the focus on attainment not learning.

Learning is not included in the report, much to the surprise of many.  Bob reports this explanation from Deborah McCann, head of ed-tech at the DfE who
“ … astonished many attendees when she admitted that the term “learning” was deliberately excluded from the strategy. She said: “We have focused on attainment. There’s a view that ‘learning’ is a bit of a weak term really and there is a lot more that we are talking about – attainment and outcomes. That’s why you don’t see it in the strategy. … learning is the process, obviously, but what we want to see is attainment.”

Increasingly I am seeing attainment as a key strategic goal. I’ve seen a number of how to develop an effective digital strategy etc papers from ed tech/publishers and attainment, retention and outcomes are prominent but there’s little about learning. Apart from maybe a bit about personalised learning being enhanced through data and AI. You too can have a totally unique, homogenised personalised learning experience . . .

We can see this focus on attainment amplified outside education, particularly in run up  the  European Parliament elections and the focus on the attainment of Brexit.  

When Therese May won the last Tory party leadership contest she famously said  “Brexit means Brexit “. Over the last 3 years it has become increasingly clear that no-one has any idea what Brexit actually means (and has forgotten it’s a made up tabloid word). However the attainment of it, has become all consuming.  

As far as I can see,  there has been no attempt to learn about the process of leaving the European Union by the hard line right Brexiteers, or to engage the electorate in a meaningful discussion about just what that would entail. The promises of saving money that would go back into the NHS were backtracked on as soon as the referendum was over.

Early this week I heard a Brexit party candidate being interviewed the the radio. He was claiming that Brexit was the only way to improve the NHS, education and all the things people really care about. When challenged by the interviewer on what couldn’t been done through existing parliamentary and government process on these issues,  he paused for a bit then said something along the lines of “well I haven’t research any of that but I know it will all be easier once we are out of the EU”.  At that point, dear reader, I didn’t crash the car, but I may have shouted a few expletives at the radio.  

The attainment of Brexit was his overriding focus, the details of how that could be done, what would happen next – not really that important.  The lack of learning and process around the understanding of what Brexit is, and this all consuming focus  attainment of Brexit has created serious consequences.

We now have a zombie government, Nigel Farage back on the campaign trail, Boris Johnston setting himself up to lead another Tory Brexit charge. In the meantime our current national problems such as housing, education, the NHS never mind the global environmental crisis are, to my mind, being ignored as the attainment of Brexit overrules them all. 

Perhaps if our current government, and all leave political parties had taken a bit more time to really learn about the process of exiting the second largest trading block in the world, 40 years of trade and related treaties, human rights legislation etc, etc, and then share that in a meaningful way with the electorate, we would actually know what Brexit means. Then we could go through a meaningful learning process to decide if that really is what we need. In the meantime I’ll take learning over attainment any day. 

Here is an advert you might remember that kind of sums it up for me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *