From Exam Factories to Communities of Discovery

The democratic route

Paperback / softback, 102 pages, 234 mm x 156 mm
29 Nov 2011
Institute of Education

Price: £15.99

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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 analyse 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 organisations 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.

  • Frank Coffield

    Frank Coffield is Emeritus Professor of Education at the Institute of Education, University of London, having previously worked in the Universities of Newcastle, Durham and Keele. Earlier he taught in a comprehensive school, an approved school and Jordanhill College of Education in Scotland. He was Director of the ESRC’s research programme into The Learning Society from 1994 to 2000, and edited 4 reports and 2 volumes of findings from the programme.

  • Bill Williamson

    Bill Williamson is Emeritus Professor of Continuing Education at Durham University.

Preface by Tony Edwards
1 Breaking the consensus on education
2 A diagnosis of our time
3 An educational balance sheet
4 From exam factories to communities of discovery
5 Can we do it?

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.

Toni Fazaeli, Institute for Learning

..this is now on our reading list for several of the Diploma in Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector (DTLLS) modules as we thought it to be a most thought provoking piece of work.

Duncan Hindmarch,

...makes compelling and thought-provoking reading.

Dr Caroline Sarojini Hart, University of Cambridge

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.

Dana Bennis, Institute for Democratic Education in America

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.

Dr Helen Raduntz, University of South Australia

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, University of Hull

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.

Gert Biesta, University of Stirling, Scotland

.. it [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, InTuition Magazine (Issue 7)

“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, Teachingmusic website

“[It} argue[s] for a superior quality of debate, one that engages with basic questions around the philosophy of education and imagines alternatives to the neoliberal consensus.”

Nicholas Dobson, Youth & Policy No. 110 May 2013