Returning from Qatar, I started pondering the future of education for individuals. The often-feared GMAT has been compromised, Western newspapers carry frequent complaints about slipping standards (e.g. maths needs to improve) and Yong Zhao puts a clear case for the mismatch between standardised testing and education automatically leading to innovative knowledge economies as he looks at the ‘myth‘ of Chinese scholastic supremacy.
I lived in Qatar years ago when I was the seventh woman to be allowed to drive – and my husband had to sign to say I could drive without wearing umpteen layers of net over my eyes. Today, the country has an Aspire (sports-based) education programme, an Education City with foreign universities, syndicated televised debates including female students, a goal to become a true knowledge economy and more pristine, interesting buildings than I could have imagined on my first, happy, visit. Even more astounding, in a public place in Doha I was asked a question by a young person who just wanted an answer to what was, effectively, a debate about where in the world they should study. I was carrying a book at the time that must have given away my interest in higher education.
If a country can move that fast in much less than a Western world’s age-21-to-retirement span, then the message is clear: learning is living, vital. To return to Yong Zhao, he argues strongly that education should not be about homogenisation. I can but agree. Learning is more than passing exams or meeting standards, important though they are as markers of progress and pathways to employment. Learning gives the opportunity to explore, to innovate, to reinvent oneself.