The latest efforts in British school reform are being watched with interest in America, according to the May Atlantic.
Britain’s Education Reform Act, passed in 1988, combines seemingly disparate aspects of reform--site-based management and a national assessment system--into a choice-driven program called the “national curriculum.”
In theory, writes Tim Brookes, a former English teacher and National Public Radio commentator, the goals of the British reform support one another. National assessment ensures published exam results that can in turn be used by parents in choosing a school for their child. Schools become both accountable and competitive.
Unfortunately, Mr. Brookes adds, many aspects of the national curriculum may leave teachers “staggering under the weight of its ambition.’' Besides gaining the responsibility for teaching subjects in which they have may have no training or experience, new testing requirements demand that teachers monitor more closely the individual classroom progress of each student.
"[T]op-down reform that has deliberately ignored teachers’ opinions has only added to low morale,” he says of teachers in Britain, where low status and pay are contributing to an estimated shortfall of 15,000 in the teaching corps by 1995.
The national curriculum is being embraced by the British education establishment, he concludes, because it “draws most heavily on ... research and the involvement of teachers.”
In its May cover story, Mother Jones discloses what it calls “America’s Dirty Little Secret: We Hate Kids.”
Marion Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund, offers in the lead article advice on how to push children’s rights to the political forefront. Several other children’s advocates pick up this theme in a question-and-answer forum. Their advice: Start with a unifying purpose, such as health care, which parents can rally around.
Articles in the special issue range from first-person stories in problem areas, such as one mother’s account of her precarious relationship with an undocumented, immigrant care-giver, to examinations of the need for a national child-care policy, prenatal care, maternity leave, and flexible work schedules.
A common theme is the direct relationship between children’s welfare and women’s welfare. The authors urge that child care be looked upon as more than a “women’s issue,” viewing it, in the words of one author, as an “intelligent investment in the future."--skg
A version of this article appeared in the May 08, 1991 edition of Education Week as In The Press