To state the obvious – Education is the foundation for our future.




If you have a chance to read Arthur Herman’s book “The Scottish Enlightenment”  you will pick up that universal education was established in Scotland in the eighteenth century through “The Act for Setting Schools.”  By the end of the century Scotland had a literacy rate approaching 75%, far greater than any other European society. The outcome of this strategy, was to have the Scots play a major role in the creation of the perceptions of the modern world; an influence way beyond the size of the country.

Unfortunately the education of the Scots and many other nations has failed to continually learn and develop. A recent survey of Scottish school children found that a third enjoyed school, a third were ambivalent and a further third were turned of by the whole  process. The majority of the prison population comes from the third that reject our education system. Furthermore when considering the children that go along with the education system, we find that their “love of learning” will have been destroyed by the time they reach University. It is common knowledge that students attend university to obtain qualifications –  to pass exams – not to develop their critical knowledge and understanding of the world. Once the exams are over 95% of what has been learnt will have been forgotten within 2 years and never retrieved. This is surely a terrible indictment of our education system.

The fundamental problem is that our education system is managed through Command and Control principals. While there is a recognition in early primary years that we love learning, by the time the pupil moves into secondary school we feel that we have to manage and direct the child’s education. We have centrally determined curricula and regular assessment of progress through examinations. We believe that if we did not do this then the child would not put the effort into learning. In fact the opposite is true. As Dan Pink points out in his book “Drive, The Surprising Truth about what Motivates Us”  there is a mismatch between what science knows and what our organisations do. Science knows that we are intrinsically motivated and love learning. We are marvellously diverse and creative. But by controlled learning we in fact damage our love of learning and produce a complaint society. But that is not what tomorrow’s society needs. To quote Dan Pink again – “the world economy demands more non routine, creative, conceptual abilities – too many schools are moving in the wrong direction. They are redoubling their emphasis on routines, right answers, and standardisation – … – they are bribing students into compliance instead of challenging them into engagement.”

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Home Education

There are many parents who for one reason or another decide to educate their children at home. This is a massive commitment by the parents but experience is showing that the education received is significantly superior to that secured through formal education. This is being found to be the case not only from highly educated families but also from families who do not consider themselves as well educated.

For more information about support for home education in Scotland see their web site The primary contact is Alison Preuss, her email is

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Feuerstein Methodologies

Some years ago Billy O’Neill was teaching in a school for children with behavioural difficulties. What was blatantly obvious to him was that the standard curricula had no connection with the pupil’s real lives and provided no benefit. He therefore, on his own initiative and expense,  took himself off every summer to study the approach of Reuven Feuerstein in Israel. What was unique about this approach was that it started with an appreciation of how the brain worked and focused on developing its learning ability. Rather than filling the child with predetermined knowledge (which is usually out of date) it focused on developing its ability to learn. An ability that will stay with the child for the rest of its life. To understand more of the Feuerstein approach visit

Billy O’Neill is now recognised as the Feuerstein expert in Scotland – his web site is He already has an extensive track record of making an inordinate difference in the lives of children and young adults.

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The Whole Education System

In the summer of 2010 twenty of us met at Strathclyde University to consider the holistic education system. The group comprised of primary and secondary teachers including head teachers, University lecturers including a professor, home education, the Feuerstein approach plus community education and ardent critics of our education system.

The background to the meeting was the “Curriculum for Excellence” initiative of the Scottish Government. Its aims are to achieve a transformation in education in Scotland by providing a coherent, more flexible and enriched curriculum. The wished for outcomes were: successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens, effective contributors. A suggestion was made that this might be a definition of madness – wanting different outcomes but still controlling education as they have always done. Gordon Hall of The Deming Learning Network took copious notes and produced a report. Here are links to both the Meeting notes and The Education System Report itself. The report was written through Gordon’s paradigm of systems thinking and intrinsic (love of learning) motivation. The report recognises that the society has to take responsibility for the system. It is society that demands measurement through qualifications and close scrutiny of expenditure. Society has to enable Politicians and Educators to use modern understanding of the brain and how we learn. At the end of the report is a feedback from Dr Elaine B Johnson of the USA – an eminent figure in the reform of the education system in the states.

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Sir Ken Robinson

1. Changing Education Paradigms

This is an excellent RSA Animate (11 minutes) video critique of our education system. It explores the origins of our education system in the enlightenment period with its narrow focus on academic achievement. Our attempts to reform our education system by doing what we have done in the past – (The Curriculum of Excellence in Scotland?) – The emphasis of standardised testing with all the damage it does in underming our creativity and most depressingly demanding our conformity. Well worth 11 minutes of your time.

2. Schools Kill Creativity

Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity. He champions a radical rethink of our school systems, to cultivate creativity and acknowledge multiple types of intelligence. (20 minutes)

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Seth Godin

Read a paper by Seth Godin who like Sir Ken Robinson challenges our current education system.
Stop Stealing Dreams – Seth Godin

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Finland Phenomenon


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