Education Really Matters: Overview of “Raising Potential, Attainments and Achievements”

Only high-quality education can truly raise potential, attainments and achievements.

Directions of travel?

Crisis? What crisis? Some media outlets seem to take to an open delight in distributing news about falling attainment levels and highlight what they perceive to be a general decline in the overall accomplishments of young people. Instead of conjecture and speculation, unambiguous and valid verification has to be presented to the public. Too frequently, damning comparisons fail to convince. There are numerous reasons as to why contrasting measures of the past with those of the present are extremely hard to substantiate. There is a crisis but it is a continuing challenge which is twofold in nature, namely that: (1) standards have never been deemed to be high enough; and (2) the requirement for more inclusive and effective improvements in educational provision is forever with us.

Fake news, league tables and misuses of statistics: Areas of disquiet are publications and ensuing disagreements which arise with regard to league tables, based on examination results, for educational establishments. At times, procedures can amount to a series of nationwide humiliations. There are many occasions when scrutiny and analysis ought to be undertaken in a more cautious, honest and professional fashion. On closer inspection, judgements sometimes have to be treated with suspicion or simply not to be given credibility. Educational statistics are an illusion if they do not take full account of social and environmental factors influencing school populations.

‘Closing the gap’: In recent years a great deal of political debate has been concerned with what is commonly referred to as ‘closing the gap’. Issues on this important matter are generally considered and conveyed in terms of academic subjects rather than the much wider range of capabilities and personal qualities required in daily living and employment. A recurring mistake made by policy-makers and the media has been to deliver their announcements as if there is only a singular gap. In the real world, there are multiple inequalities across openings for intellectual growth, academic qualifications and training prospects. An institutionalized, rigged system exists and must be unravelled and reconstructed. If the powers that be are serious about closing gulfs and expanding opportunities, they can start by ending child poverty which is continually at scandalous levels. How can impoverished families focus on future advancement in the here and now of a ‘postal lottery’ when they are struggling to survive?

Reasons to be cheerful? The impetus for advancement in knowledge and applied skills can be found in some key ingredients which are already present in current educational practices. These include students: feeling confident and well supported; being sufficiently involved and challenged, but not overwhelmed, in their studies; and having a genuine belief in the usefulness of selected curricular activities. Success can be attained in many diverse ways and forms.

Towards an agenda for improvement: Most would agree that governments should strive to adopt and implement improvement policies which endorse a desire to learn, the expansion of skills, creative thinking, and open and flexible mindsets from infancy to old age. The ‘measurement agenda’, when it dominates the comments and observations of evaluators, limits perspectives and fails to place a spotlight on the numerous hidden but valuable abilities and talents of many young people. Alternative recording routines for transitional phases need to be introduced to provide more accurate and holistic profiles. Acceptance of, and commitment to embrace, those who are profoundly neglected or in need of assistance will greatly enrich society as a whole. Everyone matters!  

Nothing is impossible. The word itself says “I’m possible.”
Everyone matters!

Concluding remarks: The following points are worthy of further consideration: (1) accomplishments and successes are about much more than results in tests; (2) thoughtful analysis and scrutiny must be assigned to the use and reporting of statistics, particularly when the outcomes seem to be sensationalist or melodramatic; (3) there are many reasons to be optimistic as to how advances can be taken forward so long as inspiring programmes of study are made available to enable all learners to augment their talents; (4) the recognition and celebration of potential, attainments and achievements are extremely advantageous not only for individuals but also for families, local communities and a state’s cultural and economic growth.

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Only high-quality education can truly raise potential, attainments and achievements.