Festival of Education 2015: the inspirational, the questionable and the controversial.

The Festival of Education, hosted at the spectacular Wellington College, has been running since 2011.  It is building a reputation for being the stomping ground for some of the top educational researchers, prominent writers, influential figures and this year even rap stars. But whilst it advertises itself proudly as a ‘festival’ the undertones are very clear – Education is very important and must be recognised as such.

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“It’s always better to try, even if you fail and fall. The good people around you will pick you up.” Tinie Tempah

For example Tinie Tempah, recognised singer, noted fashion ambassador and savvy business man, can now add inspirational speaker to his list of achievements.

“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”

Speaking for 25 minutes non scripted, non rehearsed and from the heart (unlike the earlier rehearsed presentation from Nicky Morgan) his views resonated with my own as a teacher but in words that connected with the younger audience. He spoke of how competitive the world is, so no matter what talents you may have, nothing can be achieved without hard work and persistence.

The interview between Piers Morgan (it was nice to hear him on the receiving end of questions for a change) and charismatic Master of Wellington College Sir Anthony Seldon was also highly entertaining.

“It is crucial that debates are part of young peoples’ education”

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“Creativity is absolutely crucial in education, teachers have to nurture intellect and entrepreneurial skills” Piers Morgan

The surprisingly humble Mr Morgan, not only had the audience laughing at his attempts at cricket (something about an Australian fast bowler who cracked his rib) and how he is very efficient at ‘sacking people’, he also spoke about the crucial impact of his time not only as a public school boy but also his education in comprehensive schools.

The big debate topic, that had me festering long after it was finished, was on “What is intelligence?” between Sir Anthony Seldon, Sebastian Faulks, Robert Plomin and Angela Duckworth.
]Sir Anthony Seldon, who opened the debate, proclaimed that not only “is it not all about IQ” that he is a firm believer in Howard Gardener’s multiple intelligences, which must be recognised within the classroom. Mr Faulks, remaining relatively neutral throughout, uncontroversially argued that intelligence is something not to describe humans but animals (his dog has more intelligence than his cat – maybe controversial for cat lovers).

But it was Angela Duckworth (Professor at Pennsylvania University) who really got me thinking. On the one hand she argued “IQ Tests are just a freeze frame – we need a movie” -implying in my mind, that IQ tests provide a snap shot of current performance  contributing to the big picture but are not the big picture.

11109586_819116968170703_5982670860684853872_nProfessor Duckworth continued to say, mainly against Sir Seldon, that IQ Tests “predict but do not determine” achievement. These words really stayed with me – tests in general do indicate (or predict) the current workings of that student but it is down to the student ( as well as the learning environment) as to whether those results ‘determine’ the outcome of further exams/tests. Even Sir Anthony Seldon’s institution requires complex entrance exams and requirements (as one young member of the audience disgruntledly commented on).

So while the debate never really delved into the core of ‘the meaning of intelligence’ (I think this was an ambitious philosophical question) the angle the debate took down IQ testing was intriguing.

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