Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Robust or Bust

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Robust or Bust

Article excerpt

Here's a little test. What do the following public statements have in common? "The Programme for International Student Assessment provides robust comparisons of nations' performance"; "The Australian government is to evaluate the robustness of the curriculum"; "Robust data gives us [the US Department of Education] the road map to reform".

"Robustness" has plainly become the latest educational holy grail, although I'm not sure that even the Holy Grail itself would be deemed sufficiently "fit for purpose" these days. Everything must be utterly robust now: exams, standards, inspections, teaching, training.

It's a wonderful vision but is any global figure out there robust enough to turn the dream into a reality? Can anyone ensure that the cherished quality "robust" prevails over those notoriously reactionary educational forces of fudge, fog and flim-flam?

Happily, help is on the horizon. Cinema-goers may have noticed that a rebuilt RoboCop is back in town. Once again he has been brutally enforcing his robotic version of law and order on the streets of Detroit, programmed to destroy anything or anyone standing in his way. I am not suggesting that RoboCop himself should sort out schools. But with his mould and materials still to hand, his creators need simply build and tweak an equally ruthless but more academically orientated cousin: RobustCop.

RobustCop's mission would go way beyond eliminating crime in a single US city. He would clean up educational evil across the world, with remedial action for schools, teachers and their leaders all driven by a brain loaded with the necessary data on every child's potential and performance. …

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