Bedford Way Papers Series 8

From Exam Factories to Communities of Discovery

The Democratic Route

February 2012
More details
  • Publisher
    UCL IOE Press
  • Published
    10th February 2012
  • ISBN 9780854739172
  • Language English
  • Pages 102 pp.
  • Size 6.25" x 9.25"

From Exam Factories to Communities of Discovery passionately calls for educators to challenge the dominant market-led model of education and instead build a more democratic one, better able to face threats such as environmental damage; intensified global competition; corrosive social inequalities in and between nations in the world; and the need for a new, just and sustainable economic model.

The book documents how education policy has led to schools and universities becoming exam factories and further education colleges becoming skills factories. The authors analyze neo-conservative agendas and conclude that solutions pursued in this way will only strengthen social inequalities and corrode the security and professionalism of educators. They then set out an educational balance sheet that captures the strengths and weaknesses of the present "system" of education, drawn from England and from education debates across the developed world. They use this evidence to propose an alternative future for education, which builds "communities of discovery" by realising the collective creativity of students and educators through democracy. They explain how this alternative is better suited to current times and refer to organizations that have embraced this approach to solve problems such as how to re-engage disaffected youth.

The authors conclude by asking "Can we do it?" and warn us of what we may face if we don't act. This book is written as a call to action for all educators working in a wide variety of settings – in schools, colleges and universities, in work-based learning and within communities – and for those interested in education policy.

“This is a short, highly readable book with a powerful and compelling message. The language is elegant and clear - the argument powerful and persuasive. A remarkable book – I encourage all involved in education to read it.”

David Ashworth - ,

" [makes] a powerful case for the central task of education to be the development and enrichment of democratic citizenship, and it is coruscating on the inadequacies of our current arrangements... Do read the book - it is worth arguing with."

Alan Tuckett, MlfL, Former CEO, NIACE and currently President of the International Council for Adult Education, UK - , Institute for Learning InTuition Magazine

“For those fighting the pressure to turn schools into factories and young people into products, this book is timely, pertinent and radical. It offers an alternative perspective on education, one that resonates strongly with those of us passionate about democracy, participation and inclusion. It is not a dry academic textbook but is exciting and refreshing. More than this, it is a call to action.”

Dr. Max A. Hope, Centre for Educational Studies - , University of Hull

“Coffield & Williamson are to be congratulated on providing a very accessible, succinct and practical account of the current socially destructive trends in education policy based on market neo-liberalism, and how policy change might be organised from standpoint of educators in the field. A particular strength lies in the way the authors demonstrate how their notion of a community of discovery investigation might proceed as a means of gaining consensus for collective action for change. In this regard the book makes a positive contribution towards ‘What can we do?’ as well as ‘Can we do it’.”

Dr. Helen Raduntz, Adjunct Research Fellow, Centre for Research in Education, Equity and Work - , University of South Australia

"Frank Coffield and Bill Williamson share their powerful vision of democratic educational communities to replace the profoundly flawed system we have now in the UK, USA, and countries around the world. Grounded in a deep knowledge of education politics, a passionate commitment to democracy, and the moral urgency to act now, this concise book provides change-makers with the inspiration to build the kinds of communities that are the foundation for a more just and sustainable society."

Dr. Dana Bennis, Director of Research and Programs - , The Institute for Democratic Education in America (IDEA)

“This succinct booklet makes compelling and thought-provoking reading. The style of writing generates a sense of urgency culminating in a spine-tingling call for action in the names of both professional liberty and social justice for learners. Coffield and Williamson argue passionately for a radical shift away from dominant political discourses based on targets and the market-value of education. Instead, they challenge readers to think differently about the nature of education and present a plan for generating collaborative ‘communities of discovery’ that have the potential to overcome the constraints of the present system. The book is both timely and topical, focusing on some of the most pressing issues in contemporary UK society. It will no doubt stimulate much needed debate. By unsettling the status quo, Coffield and Williamson strengthen the moral imperative to act now in order to rescue the future of education in the UK. Readers are left in no doubt that there is no time to delay.”

Dr. Caroline Sarojini Hart - , University of Cambridge

“This book is a passionate plea for making education in schools, colleges and universities more meaningful and more democratic. Frank Coffield and Bill Williamson not only show where things went wrong but also provide concrete suggestions for how we might put them right. A must-read for anyone who believes in the power of education.”

Professor Gert Biesta, Professor of Education - , University of Stirling

From Exam Factories to Communities of Discovery extends Professor Frank Coffield’s seminal work Just suppose teaching and learning became the first priority….Teachers and trainers, as well as others with a passion for learning that is driven by curiosity and collaboration, will find the case for an education whose aim is to tackle the biggest questions and dangers of our time irresistible. ‘Communities of discovery’ give a means for creating such an education system and engaging practitioners. Are we beyond needing a clarion call to shut up factories for exams and skills and transform them? Frank and Bill find not, and sweep from the panoramic to the particular of our times to excite, pepper and persuade, stripping back policy architecture in order to get to the heart of that ‘what is the aim of education’. Readers are invited and inspired to take action, so that as educators we create an ‘educational spring’ and awakening where learning is the central organising principle.”

Ms Toni Fazaeli, Chief Executive - , Institute for Learning

List of abbreviations
Preface--Tony Edwards
About the authors
1) Breaking the consensus on education
2) A diagnosis of our times
3) An educational balance sheet
4) From exam factories to communities of discovery
5) Can we do it?

Frank Coffield

Frank Coffield retired in 2007 after 42 years in education, first as a teacher in a comprehensive and then in a boys' approved school in Scotland. He was also a lecturer in education at Jordanhill College of Education in Glasgow and Keele University in Staffordshire, and Professor of Education at the Universities of Durham, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, and the Institute of Education, University of London.

Bill Williamson

No information