Guest blog by RSA Fellow and Youth Engagement Producer, Fran Plowright, and Year 12 student from RSA Whitley Academy, Prince Chivaka
Earlier this week, Sir Ken Robinson visited the RSA to give us his latest thinking on what our education system really needs in his 'How To Change Education From The Ground Up' talk. I was lucky enough to bag a front row seat (hundreds had to make do with watching the live stream via The RSA website, as it sold out faster than Glastonbury apparently!) along with 5 students from The RSA Whitley Academy whom I'm working with on a series of Podcasts titled "What About Tomorrow? - teenagers growing up in uncertain times”. So what could be a more fitting way to inspire them on their mission to find out about how teenagers can be confident, well-educated and thoughtful adults than to take them along to a lecture by the world-renowned educationalist who, let's face it, is a very engaging, funny and honest man.
We were not disappointed.
Sir Ken focused on what he identifies to be four purposes to public education: Economic, Cultural, Social and Personal. Unsurprisingly, he put a lot of emphasis on the importance of the personal and the celebration of the individual and difference. When it boils down to it, he says, if you remove all the timetables, rules and systems, true learning is all about the magic which happens between the pupils - who as children have a voracious appetite to learn- and the teachers. In Ken’s words,
"Teaching is an art form and we can't improve education by alienating the people who do the work so let's support, rather than vilify our teachers, and support them to inspire their students with a sense of their own possibility".
Prince Chivaka who is in Year 12 and is Head Boy at the RSA Whitley Academy was lucky enough to pose a question to Sir Ken about what role young people like himself and his colleagues could play in the changes at ground level that need to be made. Afterwards, he and his fellow students, Pavani Konda, Cherise McIntosh, Chloe Sedgley and Joseph White got to interview some audience members about their responses to Sir Ken's talk.
In Prince’s words:
The event was fantastic and there was a great atmosphere. Sir Ken Robinson was very dynamic and the best speaker I had ever personally heard and I even got to ask him a question. For me the key thing was when he said that not every student goes to Oxford or Cambridge and students should stop viewing getting into these institutions as the pinnacle of achievement. This statement was quite impactful on me as it is something that I feel affects other students of my age who are about to apply to university. It reflects a mentality which is based on purely valuing students and their potential to be successful adults on which university they attend and what they achieve academically. Whilst academic rigour is no doubt important, I feel that it is also important that we do not perpetuate the benchmark that distinguishes between students who will be successful because they can work within the scope of the current education system and those who we view as being likely to 'fail' because they do not fit into the system because they are not as academic.
Overall it was a very good day. We were able to listen to a world renowned speaker and interview some very passionate people including, Sam Connif and Michelle Clothier of Livity, the man behind Lara Croft and Tomb raider, Ian Livingstone, and lots of eminent people from the world of education and creative industries - I even interviewed Sir Ken's daughter, Kate! Afterwards, we got a bit of a day out in Central London, not bad for a Monday!
A big thanks to all the people at the RSA for making this day possible and watch out for our podcast "What About Tomorrow - teenagers growing up in uncertain times" on the RSA website soon.