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The Fourth Way: The Inspiring Future for Educational Change (Hargreaves and Shirley)

‘The Forth Way – The Inspiring Future for Educational Change’ by Andy Hargreaves and Dennis Shirley was mentioned to me by the curriculum director at the very interesting MLC School, so I thought it would be worth a look.

In a short but insightful hundred pages, Hargreaves and Shirley from Boston College present a broad overview of the evolution of Western education since WWII, and then outline what they believe is the next step – the Fourth Way.

Drawing heavily on Anthony Giddens, they describe the various stages that education has passed through, primarily in the UK, US, and Europe (but mentioning Australian and New Zealand). From the First Way (innovation and inconsistency), the Second Way (markets and standardisation) to the Third Way (performance and partnerships). From here they analyse several instances of emergent ‘best practice’ (from Finland to ‘Tower Hamlets’ in the UK) to chart a way forward that keeps the best of the Third Way, but moves away from the cultures of ‘customers’ and ‘accountability’.

I was interested at the assumption of the authors that (with the exception perhaps of the US) we ave moved beyond the Second Way of high stakes census-based testing because we all realised it was expensive and didn’t work. I’m not sure – we must have missed that memo!

It is refreshing to read such an informed piece – both theoretically and through contemporary evidence – about the future of education. While the broad strokes of the work chart more of a broad destination than a practical course, the repeated reference to actual places where these changes are being explores gives the reader ample focus for further investigation.

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