Once Upon a Time there was a country that was very famous for the widgets it made. They were the very best widgets, magical and capable of widgeting themselves in where they were needed. They were made by the thousands in great factories from where they were sent out to all the building going on across the country.
Then one day the Minister for Widgets, who was a very important man, thought it would be so much better if every widget was exactly the same. Surely this would mean that whenever somebody needed a widget, they could be assured they would have the exact length and size they needed. Not to big, not too small – special middle widgets they would be called. And because he was very important, all the factories started churning out widgets exactly to the specifications the Minister deemed best.
The new middle widgets were announced proudly as the best ever made and presented to the country at large. But then problems began to surface. It was discovered that the middle widgets were indeed perfect for middle sized problems.
However a middle widget wasn’t always appropriate! Sometimes they needed a small widget, which some of the time, a middle widget could be forced into but really wasn’t suited for the role. But when they needed a large widget they simply didn’t have what they needed for the job.
And for the middle widgets themselves, only the very best could find a place doing what they were made to do. For the others there simply wasn’t enough work to go around so they ended up lost and forgotten, the potential abandoned and cast on the scrap heap.
Eventually somebody asked the Minister for Widgets about the problem to which the Minister replied that the problem was really that of the middle widgets who didn’t try hard enough to live up to their potential. But it was okay because he’d had a great new idea in the shower that day that would totally change widget production again across the land and he would be announcing it very shortly…
That One Size Fits All Approach
Criticising the assembly line education model isn’t exactly a new topic for me. I’ve mentioned it in several letters so far. But the recent announcement in the UK that all our schools would be obligated to become academies over the next few years was something that profoundly disappointed me.
Like the widgets in my little story, students are the products of whatever they are taught. But unlike widgets each student is an individual with their own strengths and weaknesses, preferences and strengths.
It certainly seems to be that this latest push for a one size fits all category of education in the UK is a bad thing. Rather than recognizing the benefits that different options for learning bring to students it can’t be a good thing when young people are funnelled into ever more limited options.
Certainly it’s good for those of us in distance education – we’ve always benefited from filling in the many gaps that the straight jackets of state education has mandated. And we’ll still be here for our students to offer quality education that fits their personalized needs.
Until next time
Director of Vocational Studies
Academy for Distance Learning