Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the Learning Revolution

posted by Jürgen Kurtz, Justus Liebig University Giessen, Germany

According to Sir Ken Robinson, “We have built our education systems on the model of fast food. This is something Jamie Oliver talked about the other day. You know there are two models of quality assurance in catering. One is fast food, where everything is standardized. The other are things like Zagat and Michelin restaurants, where everything is not standardized, they’re customized to local circumstances. And we have sold ourselves into a fast food model of education. And it’s impoverishing our spirit and our energies as much as fast food is depleting our physical bodies.” (subtitled in 50 languages)

In Germany and, from my perspective, in many other countries around the globe, SL/FL teachers are put under massive pressure to meet vague and – partially – unconvincing standards, and to conduct tests based on a questionable approach to foreign language education. What do you think about all this?


4 responses to “Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the Learning Revolution

  1. Such blanket accusations are no help and should be avoided. Which schools does he mean? There are big differences between the ways primary schools are conducted and, let’s say, sixth form colleges. And what does R. mean by standardized? He may have tests in mind, but it seems to me his major concern is the quality of teaching. In Der Lehrer ist unsere Chance (2005) I have provided evidence for what really happens in foreign language classes in German secondary schools and I have found both misery and splendour, both uniformity and diversity. I did of course enjoy the video, Ken Robinson’s humour etc. It’s certainly an inspiring talk, and this is something to be grateful for. But we need to be much more precise, more empirical and less abstract. Sweeping condemnations of our schools such as the above are useless unless backed up by solid research which tells us where we have failed and where we haven’t.

  2. Pingback: Sir Ken Robinson ... - Foreign Language Education in the 21st Century | Progressive, Innovative Approaches to Education |

  3. The role of education has changed over the last 50 (?) years from being a tool of learning and enlightenment, to a tool to aid efficiency and productivity. In language learning (TEFL) the corresponding change has been away from social communication and more towards meeting specific needs (ESL) eg. writing e-mails, giving sales demos, negotiating deals, exchanging technical info. etc. The problem is, as most TEFL teachers no doubt know, that most students now find the social communication aspect the most difficult. That’s why I believe the two should be ‘blended’ and teachers need to disceetly side-step company’s ‘training manager’s’ requirements about ‘specific needs’ and have a more integrated approach. In my experience, business students prefer it that way!

  4. What amazes me is how an ex-professor of education can hold up a straw man, set fire to him and call it a revolution. The predominant approach to teaching in the UK, for instance, has been child-centred. It hasn’t been the sort of ridiculous brick-in-the-wall industrial approach Ken depicts. Knocking down straw men ain’t smart and it doesn’t amount to a revolution. Which leads into the question of what on earth Sir Ken has been doing. I try to answer that in one of my posts:

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