quinta-feira, dezembro 27, 2007

Education at Risk: Fallout from a Flawed Report

JL (HM do Nexus) chamou-me a atenção para este texto que discorre criticamente sobre a recente história da Educação na América (a propósito dos problemas detectados há anos e de um célebre relatório que se destinava a permitir descobrir os caminhos "da salvação"...).

Subscrevo o que me disse por e-mail: substituam-se uns quantos nomes por outros e até parece uma outra história próxima...
O facto não me alegra...
Diz apenas algo sobre a nossa incapacidade de aprender realmente com os erros dos outros. Do nosso vício de importar umas ideias dispersas, aqui e ali, colá-las de qualquer maneira sem ter em conta a nossa realidade e ficar à espera de milagres...
(Se os milagres não acontecem... lá vem mais um bricolage, sempre sustentado na "culpa" de alguém. Reflectir em conjunto, entender a essência dos problemas... para quê?)

Nearly a quarter century ago, "A Nation at Risk" hit our schools like a brick dropped from a penthouse window. One problem: The landmark document that still shapes our national debate on education was misquoted, misinterpreted, and often dead wrong.

by Tamim Ansary
published 3/9/2007

Ler o resto aqui:
Education at Risk: Fallout from a Flawed Report (EDUTOPIA)

Só um excerto... de uma época mais recente (mas para quem se interessar por estas questões, vale a pena enquadrar com o caminho anterior):

After the 2000 election, George W. Bush dubbed himself America's "educator in chief," and until terrorism hijacked the national agenda, he was staking his presidency on a school-reform package known as the No Child Left Behind Act, a bill that -- as every teacher knows -- dominates the course of public education in America today.

School reform is not a settled issue, however, and the ongoing debate about how best to go about it reflects a larger struggle between two competing ideologies. The many initiatives discussed for changing public education -- accountability, standards, standardized testing, homework, arts in the curriculum, and so on -- comprise one side of that debate.

Consider the analogy, for example, between liberal and conservative approaches to crime and to education. On crime, one side says, "Start with the criminal. Ask what turns people into criminals, what motivates criminals, how we intervene in that process, and how we can alter the conditions that promote transgression." The other approach says, "Never mind who the criminals are: State the rules, catch the violators, and punish them hard so they won't do it again."

When it comes to schools, one side says, "Start with the student. Ask what motivates kids, what blocks them, what gets them to muster their own best learning resources." The other approach says, "Never mind each particular student's wants and needs: Post the curricula, test all students, and punish those who fail."

Testing provides another revealing example. Teachers have always used myriad formal and informal tools to see whether kids are learning what is being taught. No one is against assessment. But testing in the context of today's school reform is not about finding out what kids know; it's about who gets the test results.

Only on-site teachers can really make a broad ongoing assessment that gets at a range of achievements and takes the individual into account. By contrast, uniform standardized testing whose outcomes can be expressed as simple numbers allows someone far away to compare whole schools without ever seeing or speaking to an actual student. It facilitates the bureaucratization of education and enables politicians, not educators, to control schools more effectively.

James Harvey, a member of the commission that produced "A Nation at Risk," expresses concern about the uses made of the report and the direction it has given to school reform. Today, he says, "educational decisions have been moved as far as possible from the classroom. Federal officials are now in a position to make decisions that would have been unimaginable even two years ago. They've established the criteria for disciplining schools, removing principals and teachers, and even defining appropriate curriculum for American classrooms."

Reform, Not Improve
Bush Sr. launched the idea of a national education policy shaped at the federal level by politicians. Clinton sealed it, and our current president built on this foundation by introducing a punitive model for enforcing national goals. Earlier education activists had thought to achieve outcomes through targeted spending on the theory that where funding flows, school improvement flourishes. The new strategy hopes to achieve outcomes through targeted budget cutting -- on the theory that withholding money from failed programs forces them to shape up.

Which approach will actually improve education? Here, I think, language can lead us astray. In everyday life, we use reform and improve as synonyms (think: "reformed sinner"), so when we hear "school reform," we think "school improvement." Actually, reform means nothing more than "alter the form of." Whether a particular alteration is an improvement depends on what is altered and who's doing the judging. Different people will have different opinions. Every proposed change, therefore, calls for discussion.

The necessary discussion cannot be held unless the real alternatives are on the table. Today, essentially three currents of education reform compete with each other.

One sees inspiration and motivation as the keys to better education. Reform in this direction starts by asking, "What will draw the best minds of our generation into teaching? What will spark great teachers to go beyond the minimum? What will motivate kids to learn and keep coming back to school?"
In this direction lie proposals for building schools around learners, gearing instruction to individual goals and learning styles, pointing education toward developing an ever-broader range of human capacities, and phasing in assessment tools that get at ever-subtler nuances of achievement. Overall, this approach promotes creative diversity as a social good.

A second current, the dominant one, sees discipline and structure as the keys to school improvement. Reform in this direction starts by asking, "What does the country need, what must all kids know to serve those needs, and how can we enforce the necessary learning?" In this direction, the curriculum comes first, schools are built around the curriculum, and students are required to fit themselves into a given structure, controlled from above. As a social good, it promotes national unity and strength. This is the road we're on now with NCLB.

A third possible direction goes back to diversity and individualism -- through privatization, including such mechanisms as tuition tax credits, vouchers (enabling students to opt out of the public school system), and home schooling. Proponents include well-funded private groups such as the Cato Institute that frankly promote a free-enterprise model for schooling: Anyone who wants education should pay for it and should have the right to buy whatever educational product he or she desires.

What's Next?
Don't be shocked if NCLB ends up channeling American education into that third current, even though it seems like part of the mainstream get-tough approach. Educational researcher Gerald Bracey, author of Reading Educational Research: How to Avoid Getting Statistically Snookered, writes in Stanford magazine that "NCLB aims to shrink the public sector, transfer large sums of public money to the private sector, weaken or destroy two Democratic power bases -- the teachers' unions -- and provide vouchers to let students attend private schools at public expense."

Why? Because NCLB is set up to label most American public schools as failures in the next six or seven years. Once a school flunks, this legislation sets parents free to send their children to a school deemed successful. But herds of students moving from failed schools to (fewer) successful ones are likely to sink the latter. And then what?

(sublinhados meus)

3 comentários:

Paulo Faria disse...

As políticas educativas mundiais na década de 80 têm uma preponderância e uma influência determinante a partir dos governos de Margaret Thatcher, no Reino Unido e de Ronald Reagan, nos Estados Unidos. Num contexto histórico com contornos muito específicos e patenteado na apoteose da Guerra-fria, os dois países vão dando seguimento e implementado com grande determinação macropolíticas preconizadas e teorizadas por Milton Friedman, entre outros. Este é um ponto de partida que recolhe bastante consenso, frequentemente defendido no sentido de apontar o movimento neoliberal como um poderoso bloco de forças, num processo de reconfiguração de certos conceitos, indo de encontro aos objectivos das políticas de direita. Segundo Luís Gandin,«as categorias específicas surgem actualmente despidas dos seus significados que os relacionavam com determinadas lutas pela justiça e igualdade em geral na educação, em particular sendo associados com categorias como ‘eficiência, produtividade, e conhecimento como mercadoria. É, portanto, ênfase do discurso, colocado pelos neoliberais na mercadorização da educação. Os sistemas educativos são desenvolvidos a partir de um paradigma nuclear – a eficiência. Transforma-se assim a educação, a partir da década de 90, centrada no movimento da globalização, numa relação entre os Estados-nação complexa e por vezes paradoxal. Como consequência, é reformada e redefinida o papel do Estado e a revalorizada a ideologia do mercado, figurando assim como dois dos vectores essenciais dessas mudanças.
Este parágrafo é parte de uma pequena investigação que fiz no âmbito de pesquisas acerca do assunto. Já, agora, sugiro a leitura de J. Chubb & T. Moe (1990). Politics, Markets and America’s Schools. Washington, The Brooking Institution. E também, ainda dos mesmos autores, mas mais centrado nas políticas da Inglaterra: J. Chubb; T. Moe (1992). A lesson in school reform from Great Britain. Washington, The Brooking Institution.
Onde estamos nós?

Herr Macintosh disse...

Em relação à pergunta final acho que podemos citar a grande tirada de (penso eu) Gertúlio Vargas: "Ontem estávamos à beira do abismo! Hoje demos um grande passo em frente!"
O grande problema é que andamos sempre em contra ciclo e aderimos normalmente a políticas que já foram testadas com resultados desastrosos noutros países, só que as nossas mentes brilhantes esqueceram-se de ler as conclusões (acho que, em muitos casos, se esqueceram pura e simplesmente de pensar - afinal, se vem de fora é bom). Ler um artigo como este é uma espécie de dejá vue (mudamos o nome dos intervenientes e aplica-se cá à nossa terrinha) e se, a seguir, lermos a entrevista que Alvin Toffler dá (também na edutopia) temos a sensação de estarmos num filme de terror.

Teresa Martinho Marques disse...

Obrigada pelo vosso contributo para a reflexão... Eu sei que é mais fácil apontar erros que construir soluções mas, ainda assim, às vezes há erros óbvios e esses não deviam ser cometidos...