Translation: Lant Pritchett membincangkan cabaran dalam pembaharuan sistem pendidikan

Terjemahan daripada Lant Pritchett, December 2015, “Creating Education Systems Coherent for Learning Outcomes: Making the Transition from Schooling to Learning”, RISE Working Paper, m/s 7–8. Dalam petikan ini, Pritchett membincangkan cabaran dalam pembaharuan sistem pendidikan, dan betapa pentingnya kesepaduan sistem. Tema lain dalam kertas kerjanya ini termasuk beza antara persekolahan (schooling) dan pembelajaran (learning). Cadangan dan pembetulan bahasa dialu-alukan.

Inilah soalan yang sukar dijawab: “Terdapat sebilangan negara yang telah berusaha selama 50–60 tahun untuk meluaskan pendidikan sekolah rendah kepada semua, tetapi keberhasilan pendidikannya terlalu rendah. Bagaimanakah keadaan menjadi begitu teruk?”

Lebih mencabar lagi, semua jawapan yang mudah kepada soalan sukar “Bagaimanakah keadaan menjadi begitu teruk?” ini tidak dapat menjadi penjelasan umum. Hampir semua teori tentang unsur utama dalam penambahbaikan sekolah telahpun disangkal oleh bukti tentang pembelajaran di tempat lain. (Sudah tentu, kebanyakan teori ini juga terbukti dampaknya di tempat-tempat tertentu, dan teori-teori ini juga mewakili ciri-ciri sistem pendidikan yang berprestasi tinggi.) Yakni, jika si pemerhati mendapati bahawa pembelajaran di sesuatu tempat terlalu teruk, dan pelajar di situ tiada buku teks, jawapan yang mudah ialah: “Pembelajaran tidak berjaya kerana murid tiada buku teks.” Namun, sekiranya kajian menunjukkan bahawa membekalkan buku teks di suatu tempat yang lain tidak dapat meningkatkan tahap pembelajaran yang teruk di sana, maka jawapan mudah ini ternyatalah bukan jawapan yang dapat dipakai umum. Penaakulan yang sama, berdasarkan kajian pro dan kajian kontra, juga menyangkal teori-teori lain, sama ada tentang meningkatan gaji guru, mengurangkan bilangan pelajar dalam kelas, mengetatkan syarat untuk pentauliahan guru, menambahkan geran pembiayaan pendidikan, dan sebagainya. Faktor-faktor ini (saiz kelas, buku teks, gaji guru, dsb) memang terbukti kepentingannya dalam sesetengah sistem lain, terutamanya sistem yang sudah mantap. Meskipun begitu, ini tidak bermaksud bahawa kekurangan faktor-faktor tersebut dapat memberi penjelasan lengkap tentang punca prestasi rendah di sesebuah negara.

Biar kita ambil kereta sebagai perbandingan. Berdasarkan bukti empirik yang kukuh, kita semua memahami bahawa sebuah kereta dapat bergerak lebih jauh apabila diisi dengan lebih banyak minyak. Ini memang benar untuk kereta yang berfungsi. Namun begitu, jika sistem gear kereta saya telah rosak, mengisi minyak tidak akan menambahkan jarak yang dilalui—walaupun motornya mungkin berjalan lebih lama. Sekiranya unsur-unsur sesuatu sistem tidak membentuk satu keseluruhan yang bersepadu dan berfungsi, adalah mustahil untuk meramal kesan daripada penambahan salah satu unsurnya.

Secara tentatif, jawapan (panjang) kepada soalan sukar tadi, “Bagaimanakah keadaan menjadi begitu teruk?” ialah: “Sistem pendidikan yang dibina di banyak negara, biasanya melalui kerajaan, tidak direka sebagai (atau tidak berkembang menjadi) sistem yang bersepadu ke arah keberhasilan pembelajaran yang tinggi untuk semua.” Sistem-sistem ini mempunyai sasaran utama yang lain, seperti perluasan akses kepada pendidkan. Kerap kali, sebahagian daripada mereka yang menganggotai sistem tersebut memang mengharapkan keberhasilan pembelajaran yang tinggi, tetapi sistem secara keseluruhan tidak pernah koheren untuk pembelajaran.


[original text]

The hard question is: “How is it that some countries are 50-60 years into pursuing universal primary education as a goal, yet have learning outcomes that are so awful?”

Worse, all the easy answers to the hard question of “How can it be this bad?” are ruled out as general explanations. Pretty much everything everyone believes is the key element of better schools has, by now, been rigorously disproved to have an impact on student learning somewhere. Of course, many of these same notions have also been rigorously proven to have an impact on student learning somewhere else, and are characteristics of well-performing education systems. That is, if one observed that learning outcomes of students were awful and that they lacked textbooks, then the easy answer suggests itself: “Learning is bad because kids lack textbooks.” But if studies show that, in places where learning outcomes are bad, adding textbooks doesn’t make things better, this obviously cannot be the answer as to why things are so bad. The same logic applies to better teacher pay, small class sizes, teachers with more formal qualifications, larger block grants, etc. Even if it is the case that these same factors (class size, textbooks, teacher pay, and so on) are proven to matter in some, often well-functioning, systems, this doesn’t mean the causal explanation of poor performance in a given country or region is a lack of these proximate determinants or simple policy elements.

An analogy is a car. We all have the empirically well-honed intuition that a car can go further with more gas than with less gas. This is because for cars that work, it is true. But if I have a car whose transmission has failed then adding more gas will not add to miles travelled—even if it allows the motor to run for longer.

If the system does not add up to a functional whole, the causal impact of augmenting individual elements is completely unpredictable.

The tentative (long) answer to the hard question “How can it be so bad?” is: “Systems of  education were built up in many countries, primarily within governments, that were never actually designed (or emerged) as systems coherent to the purpose of producing uniformly high learning outcomes.” These systems had other, often desirable, objectives, like expansion of access. They often had learning as one objective of at least some actors in the system, but the system was never coherent for learning.

—Lant Pritchett, December 2015, Creating Education Systems Coherent for Learning Outcomes: Making the Transition from Schooling to Learning”, RISE Working Paper, p. 7–8. See also the many other working papers from RISE (Research on Improving Systems of Education).

Danielle Allen on education and equality

A friend recently passed me the text of political theorist Danielle Allen‘s excellent 2014 Tanner Lectures on education and equality.

In the first lecture, “Two concepts of education“, Allen argues that current U.S. debates about education lack clarity about the purpose of education, and that this ambiguity skews policy approaches to equality in education. Drawing on John Rawls’ “Two concepts of rules” (1955), she posits that this murkiness comes partly from confusion between the aims of state education systems, and the aims of particular instances of teaching. While the former, social concept of education may vary with institutional goals—for example, the U.S. Common Core standards frequently mention “college and career readiness—the aim of individual instances of education must always be the development the student’s capabilities.

Allen goes on to unpack what it means to develop individual human capabilities. Here, she uses Hannah Arendt’s The human condition  (1958), which identifies three core human activities: labour, activities undertaken to enable us to feed ourselves; work, creative activities that shape our human spaces and relationships; and action, political activities that determine our shared freedoms. Allen agrees with Arendt’s assertion that every person should participate in all three core activities, rather than different social strata undertaking different core roles. Hence, education should prepare people for: (1) “bread-winning”; (2) “civic and political engagement”; (3a) “creative self-expression and world-making”; and (3b) “rewarding relationships in spaces of intimacy and leisure”. Thus, this humanistic approach to education harmonises the individual concept of education (i.e. education to enable each student’s flourishing in labour (1), work (3a and 3b), and action (2)), and the utilitarian concept of education (i.e. education for economic activity (1) and civic participation (2)). She then discusses some implications of these dual lenses—humanistic individual and utilitarian social—for accountability policies in education.

In the second lecture, “Participatory readiness“, Allen observes that public discourse (at least in the U.S.) about education usually neglects preparation for civic engagement, despite the fact that the civic is part of both the social and individual justifications for education. Her concept of “participatory readiness”, however, encompasses preparation for effective engagement in all social spheres, whether politics, the workplace, or groups of friends. Specifically, participatory readiness comprises: “verbal empowerment [i.e. interpretive and expressive skills], democratic knowledge [i.e relational bonding and bridging skills], and a rich understanding of the strategies and tactics that undergird efficiency”.

Allen then argues that “the most effective way for us to direct our education system toward egalitarian ends could well be to focus on participatory readiness”; because this would equip people not only to flourish across all spheres of human experience, but also to exert influence in the political institutions that determine how equitably the rewards of education are distributed. (In contrast, if the education system aims primarily to enable all graduates to get high-paying jobs, there will be little impact on equality if those in power alter the sociopolitical landscape to exclude certain people from such jobs, regardless of their qualifications.) This leads to a defense of the humanities in education, because:

Education’s most fundamental egalitarian value is in its development of us as language-using creatures. Our linguistic capacities are what, fundamentally, education taps, and it is their great unfolding that empowers students. … As we cultivate verbal empowerment in our students, we build the foundation for a politically competitive social and political system.

Although Allen doesn’t seem like a fan of economistic justifications for education, her arguments here dovetail with some the work I’ve been reading for my current research project, which argue that a central component of economic competitiveness is verbal and social competence—asking good questions, presenting your views persuasively, collaborating productively—because technological advances and automations can’t replace these skills. I also see resonances of her framework in Malaysian schools and civil society, where different mother tongues and media of instruction  feed into separate sociopolitical spheres—impoverished “bridging skills”, so to speak—which have all kinds of implications for equality and corporate flourishing.

A book containing the lectures, along with commentaries on the lectures by other scholars, will be published next month.


Danielle Allen membincangkan pendidikan dan kesaksamaan

Beberapa minggu lepas, saya diberi salinan teks daripada Kuliah Tanner yang disampaikan oleh ahli teori politik Danielle Allen di Stanford University pada tahun 2014.

Dalam kuliah pertama, “Two concepts of education (Dua konsep pendidikan)”, Allen merujuk kepada dua pemikir terkemuka untuk membincangkan matlamat yang patut dikejar dalam pendidikan. Daripada “Two concepts of rules (Two concepts of rules)” karya John Rawls (1955), Allen membezakan antara alasan sosial untuk sistem dan institusi pendidikan, yang biasanya berdasarkan manfaat umum seperti kemajuan ekonomi; dan alasan individu untuk setiap kali pendidikan berlaku, yang sepatutnya berdasarkan perkembangan kebolehan setiap pelajar yang terlibat.

Kemudian, Allen merujuk kepada The human condition (Keadaan manusia) oleh Hannah Arendt (1958). Dalam buku ini, Arendt berkata bahawa kehidupan yang bermakna dan bersepadu merangkumi tiga jenis perbuatan teras: kerja buruh (labour) untuk mengisi perut; kerja ciptaan (work) untuk membina ruang kemanusiaan secara fizikal dan sosial; dan tindakan (action), iaitu usaha bersama untuk menentukan hala tuju politik masyarakat dan negara. Dengan fahaman sebegini tentang kehidupan yang terbaik, Allen berpendapat bahawa matlamat pendidikan daripada segi individu adalah untuk menyediakan pelajar untuk: (1) mencari makan; (2) mengambil bahagian dalam dunia politik dan sivik; (3a) menggunakan daya cipta dalam wacana, seni, dan masyarakat; dan (3b) menjalin hubungan yang bermakna. Menurut Allen, pendikan patut mengejar kesaksamaan dalam semua kesediaan inidividu yang menyeluruh ini, dan bukan sahaja dalam kesediaan (1) dan (2) yang memberi manfaat dari sudut pandangan umum.

Dalam kuliah kedua, “Participatory readiness (Kesediaan mengambil bahagian”, Allen menegaskan bahawa cara yang paling berkesan untuk meningkatkan kesaksamaan melalui pendidikan adalah dengan memberi tumpuan kepada kesediaan pelajar untuk mengambil bahagian dalam semua dunia sosial. Dalam takrifannya, kesediaan mengambil bahagian ini terdiri daripada: kemahiran mentafsir dan menyampaikan pendapat, kemahiran menjalin hubungan, dan kecekapan dalam tentang strategi dan pendekatan dalam perhubungan. Dengan kesediaan ini, kita mampu bersuara dan mengakibatkan perubahan dalam arena awam, demi kesaksamaan.

Sebuah buku yang mengandungi teks kuliah ini bersama ulasan daripada cendekiawan lain akan diterbitkan bulan depan.