The Teachers Strike, Fool’s Mate and Strategic Play in Education

The Teachers Strike, Fool’s Mate and Strategic Play in Education

The teachers are on strike today. My wife among them. So I have skin in the game. I’ve lots, I’ve three kids as well. Still at primary with some superb teachers and I want the best education possible for them.

There is a good post here on why one teacher is going on strike and in it John Killeagh points out some of the things done on behalf of education reform so far

Remove Guidance Counsellors from secondary schools
Increase the pupil/teacher ratio
Cut capitation grants to schools
Again, cut capitation grants to schools (and again for next year)
Reduce supports for students with Special Educational Needs

John Killeagh in his piece states that “I don’t trust the motivations behind these measures.”

He’s right not to. Simon Wardley in another context talks about “Fool’s mate” and the where of Strategy.

Most of the problem appears to be that companies cannot see the environment (i.e. they have no map) and aren’t used to any actual form of strategic play.

I’m not going to draw a map in this context but I want to point out the strategic play in the education environment.

This is only partially about the assessment of the Junior Certificate. It is an important part of the play. Implementing continuous assessment may or may not be a good idea. If its done as planned it will start the creeping corruption of the Irish Education system that Fintan O’Toole has talked about. Twice. And the Ministers idea of 40% rather than 100% assessment. Well can you be 40% corrupt or 40% evil? Yes those are inflammatory words and if there are principles at play then how do you compromise on a principle. What is 40% of a principle?

Behind that move is an attempt to shift a higher admin and resourcing burden onto teachers. Figures from the UK support this. As does the notion that these sorts of approaches lead to corruption. 100 years of management attempts and the manipulation of every measurement system in business only reinforce this point.

This is primarily about money. No resources are being put in to support teachers.  Teachers can see the damage caused by Project Maths, where a pedagogically sound idea has been badly resourced and dreadfully implemented. One review paper on Project Maths referred to “Project Maths contains serious flaws in its syllabus and methodology.”  The title of the report by Dr Cora Stack ITT and other maths professionals “Project Maths and the dire consequences for Irish mathematics education and the knowledge society” is not very encouraging.  The practical difficulties problems are the reason that the Project Maths figures keep getting normalised each year. Students are frustrated, parents are frustrated and teachers are frustrated.

The Junior Cert is the tip of the spear. The 40% (or 30% or 10%) will eventually be pushed back to 100%. The changes to the Junior Cert will be rolled into the Leaving Certificate. The cost of running and administrating the system will shift significantly from the Department of Education to the teachers themselves.

As John Killeagh points out

Where is the educational merit of the decision?  Why does the minister not want to move on the 40% number?  Money.  The less work that is corrected by the State Examinations Commission (SEC), the better.  It saves money.  In it’s original form, the JCSA appeared to be a precursor to phasing out the SEC.

The Government and the Department of Education is attempting to play Fools Mate against the teachers, using the education of children as its pawn.

Hopefully the Unions have seen through this.

Image via FergalTodayFM on Twitter

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