Education league tables having ‘detrimental’ effect

Social scientists tells Maynooth conference policy should not be ‘solely based on data’

NUI Maynooth  president Prof Philip Nolan (left), Dr Kerry Murphy-Healey of  Babson College (centre) and Prof Bob Lingard of the  University of Queensland at NUIM’s annual Education Forum on the theme of ‘Transforming Curricula: Empowering Learners’. Photograph: Keith Arkins.

NUI Maynooth president Prof Philip Nolan (left), Dr Kerry Murphy-Healey of Babson College (centre) and Prof Bob Lingard of the University of Queensland at NUIM’s annual Education Forum on the theme of ‘Transforming Curricula: Empowering Learners’. Photograph: Keith Arkins.

Fri, Jun 27, 2014, 16:33

The global focus on university league tables and comparative data between schools is having an “increasingly detrimental” effect on education, a conference at NUI Maynooth heard today.

Professor Bob Lingard, an Australian social scientist and education researcher, said: “We must move away from evidence-based policy making, instead focusing on evidence-informed policy making.

“A vision for Irish education is required, framed by what citizens see as a desirable future for the nation - socially, culturally and economically. Education data under evaluation should be expanded to include elements which will lead to a more rounded student and ultimately a better society.

“This data should inform policy development - but policy should not be solely based on data, which is the situation currently.”

Prof Lingard from the University of Queensland, was addressing NUIM’s annual Education Forum on the theme of ‘Transforming Curricula: Empowering Learners’.

He warned that policy-makers are moving out of step with the key stakeholders in education.”Our research is showing a marked disconnect between what parents and communities want from their educators, and what schools are being forced to deliver.”

He added: “The focus on achieving a narrow set of data, whether it is exam results, school league tables or third level rankings, is leading to a system which is increasingly detrimental to education.”

Other speakers included Dr Kerry Murphy Healey, President of Babson College, Massachusetts, which has made entrepreneurship central to its curriculum.

Professor Emer Smyth of the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) analysed a recent study of students’ perspectives on schooling, noting: “Students are generally satisfied with the personal and social development they receive in second level education.

“However, they do not feel sufficiently prepared for the transition to third level or the labour market. They are moving from a context where students are treated as children, with little input into policy or procedures, to adult life where students are required to be completely independent, making financial and life decisions, with very little preparation for it.”

She said: “Students have also expressed a view that they are not getting the active learning experience that they value and that engages them in learning.”