“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” I want my horse to drink to survive, but I can not force the horse to drink water. This is true in education, a teacher can establish a learning environment for a pupil to be successful, but can not force success into a pupil. There must be a want or desire to do so. So how do we develop desire?
Policy makers only focus on observing feedback which shows the strongest or clearest correlation which implies causation. (“Rule 1 of stats club never talk about stats club. Rule 1 of stats club, correlation doesn’t imply causation”). For example, greater attendance results in better attainment. True, but as the Young Foundation (2012) identifies this does not identify the true value added. True values are the personal attributes a student develops to increase their attainment, perseverance, confidence or a want for success. Rarely have I heard of someone not wanting success and being successful, we all have a degree of consciousness. If high academic attainment links to high performance, and this to personal attributes, where in policy are we planning to develop this?
Simple answer, not at all.
Developing soft skills (Non-cognitive skills)
It is these skills that define who we are and how we behave and the futures we make for ourselves. The Young Foundation (2012), EPI (2014) and FEA (2015) all support the idea that the developing non-cognitive skills is crucial to underpin academic and life success.
Outcome Model example:
- The outcome model links the benefits of developing an individual’s non-cognitive skills (intrinsic and extrinsic) with benefits for both them and society. (This seems like a win-win situations, there are limitations).
- Individual achievements of behaviours – Want to develop key skills to build their own success.
- Social and emotional capabilities – Core skills that allows the person to develop their own desires.
- Inter-personal relationships – Good parents and community contributes.
- Benefits to society – Strong independent individuals who are not reliant on the state to support their success.
So, if there is clear evidence what is being done to introduce these concepts into educational policy?
The difficulty is identifying a clear correlation between good non-cognitive skills and academic and life success. West (2014) published a conflicted study that shows no linked between the non-cognitive skills and academic performance. Yet, the Young Foundation (2012) has clear evidence to identify a positive relationship between student’s emotional well being and socio-economic background. Policy decisions based on qualitative information is not reassuring. But, after reading reams of threads and literature there is a body evidence all pointing in the same direction that can not be ignored.
Recommendations for policy
The future directions of policy need to make an active effort to collect data through longitudinal studies and develop tests to identify the non-cognitive development of an individual over time. Hold Ofsted (hopefully in the future a college of teachers) accountable for ensuring that schools have effective systems of developing non-cognitive skills within their pupils. By not doing anything, the power of a student to make their own decisions academically and later on in life will continually shift reliance and dependence on others for support. Establishing a link between non-cognitive skills and academic performance has never been more important in a developed society.
In the future all the horses will have the appropriate non-cognitive skills to see the importance of drinking. The same will be true for our education system, students who have a desire for success.
West (2014) – http://cepr.harvard.edu/cepr-resources/files/news-events/cepr-promise-paradox.pdf
Fair Education Alliance (2015) – http://www.faireducation.org.uk/report-card/
Economic Policy Institute (2014) – http://www.epi.org/publication/the-need-to-address-noncognitive-skills-in-the-education-policy-agenda/
The Young Foundation (2012) – https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/175476/Framework_of_Outcomes_for_Young_People.pdf