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  • You probably guessed I'm not Sir Ken.

  • Although I do share a similar lack of hair to Ken.

  • We do have Ken's daughter in the house as well, which is great,

  • but I'm not going to humiliate her by bringing her up on stage,

  • because that wouldn't be fair.

  • What I'm going to do instead is basically talk to you about Ken.

  • Sadly, Ken wasn't able to join us today.

  • He lives in L.A. You may or may not know.

  • But we thought it was appropriate, as he's the officially...

  • the most watched TED speaker ever, with his 2006 and 2010 talks

  • being watched 200 million times in 150 countries,

  • we thought it was appropriate that he did the intro to the event.

  • Sir Ken has also been working with us curating this event,

  • so he's really integral to it.

  • So, I'd like to introduce to you Ken Robinson.

  • [Applause]

  • Good morning and welcome to TEDxLondon and the Education Revolution.

  • I'm Ken Robinson and firstly let me say

  • I'm sorry not to be with you today at the Roundhouse.

  • I would love to have been there.

  • I have a great affection for the Roundhouse and for London.

  • Unfortunately, I have to be in Los Angeles,

  • which of course has its own benefits.

  • This event has been organised by TEDxLondon,

  • and I wanted to thank all the people who've put it together

  • and have worked so hard over the past few months

  • to make it work as an event in its own right.

  • But I also wanted to say a couple of word of thanks,

  • because the event, to some extent, has been triggered

  • by the second talk that I gave at TED in Long Beach.

  • I spoke at TED originally in 2006 and talked about creativity,

  • and Chris Anderson asked me to go back and talk again four years later

  • and I thought of that really as the sequel

  • and I called then for our efforts to be redoubled

  • to revolutionise education.

  • So, today is an opportunity to develop some of those ideas

  • through all the speakers that you'll be hearing

  • and in the conversations you'll be having between the sessions.

  • So I wanted just to give a few thoughts about the direction

  • in which these conversations might go and why I thought it was important

  • to talk about the need for revolution in education in the first place.

  • It's actually very appropriate that you should be meeting at the Roundhouse.

  • The Roundhouse, if you've not been there before,

  • has a long history in cultural policy and agitation.

  • It was a centre for Arnold Wesker, Centre 42,

  • which was named after a proposition that the trades unions put together

  • to promote cultural access and cultural equity.

  • I also saw a lot of productions at the Roundhouse in the '60s and '70s.

  • That would be the 1960s, by the way, and 1970s.

  • And one of them was by Peter Brook, and I'm going to come back to that,

  • just before I wrap these comments up.

  • But I wanted to, firstly, congratulate and welcome the other speakers.

  • I know of their work.

  • I particularly wanted to mention Jude Kelly, who'll be speaking shortly.

  • Jude and I have worked together for a very long time,

  • Jude does wonderful work at the Southbank Centre,

  • but we also worked together 10 years ago on a report for the British Government

  • called "All Our Futures: Creativity, Culture, and Education"

  • and Jude's work, like mine, crosses over

  • from the professional arts into education and beyond.

  • So, I wanted to say that you're in good company today for this conversation

  • and there's great expertise in the audience.

  • The reason I think we need a revolution is really captured

  • in a phrase you hear politicians often misuse.

  • They talk about the need to "get back to basics" in education,

  • and I think we should.

  • The problem, I think, is that many politicians,

  • when they say "get back to basics,"

  • seem to believe the basics are a group of subjects

  • that they did when they were at school,

  • and in particular, they tend to emphasise

  • literacy and numeracy and science.

  • Well, of course, they're fantastically important,

  • but the basics of education are not a group of subjects.

  • The basics in education are fundamental purposes

  • and I'd hope that you'd bear these purposes in mind

  • during the day's conversations and the debates and issues,

  • which I hope will flow from today.

  • There are three basics, as I see it.

  • Not in particular order of priority,

  • though I have a reason for putting them in this sequence.

  • The first of them is economic.

  • Education has powerful roles in economic growth,

  • development, and sustainability

  • and any conversation about education that doesn't take account of the economy

  • is really in some respects detached and naive from the world that we live in.

  • The problem is that the economies that we are now generating around the world

  • are quite unlike the economies in which people,

  • certainly of my generation, grew up in,

  • and completely unlike the ones in which public education was conceived.

  • The economies of the 21st century demand that we develop our skills

  • of creativity and innovation and a great multiplicity of human talents.

  • Our education systems don't do that.

  • So, one of the reasons for a revolution is to meet economic purposes.

  • But the second is cultural.

  • Education has fundamental roles in enabling our students,

  • at whatever age they happen to be,

  • to understand their own cultural backgrounds,

  • their own histories and traditions,

  • their own identity and what shaped and formed it,

  • but it has equal responsibilities to encourage them

  • to understand other people's cultures.

  • The great challenges that we face on the planet just now

  • are partly environmental, but they're also partly cultural.

  • The great conflicts around the world

  • are born out of cultural mistrust and misunderstanding.

  • So, the cultural roles of education are fundamental

  • and that has real implications for the curriculum.

  • But the thirdand I come to it last because it's, to me,

  • the bridge into everything that matters to me

  • in education, as we start to build for the future

  • the third of them is personal.

  • Education in the end is about people.

  • It's about individuals.

  • It's about their hopes and their aspirations.

  • It's about their talents and their abilities and their passions.

  • A lot of people are dropping out of education,

  • a lot of people are staying in, but detaching from it,

  • and they all have personal reasons for doing that.

  • Education is not a mechanistic process,

  • it's a process that depends upon the imaginations

  • and interests of students being properly engaged.

  • So, at the root of my call for a revolution

  • is the need to personalise education,

  • and I say it because, particularly over the last 10 or 15 years,

  • education has in a way become more and more impersonal.

  • The more the governments have driven to standardise education,

  • the more they've driven education towards a narrow view of conformity,

  • the less personal it's become.

  • So, the root of the revolution, to me, is the need to reverse our priorities

  • and focus on the students and the teachers.

  • I mentioned Peter Brook. I used to go to the Roundhouse in the '70s

  • and I saw a number of productions by Peter Brook.

  • Peter Brook, if you don't know, was a theater director, still is.

  • He was involved with the National Theatre,

  • the Royal Shakespeare Theatre,

  • and then he moved to Paris to set up a centre for theatre research.

  • I remember seeing his production of "The Ik" at the Roundhouse,

  • when the Roundhouse was a centre for innovative theatre in the '70s.

  • Peter Brook wrote a book a number of years ago, called "The Empty Space"

  • and in it, he talks about his interest in making theatre

  • the most powerful experience it can be

  • and his argument really is that a lot of theatre experience

  • is not terribly powerful;

  • it passes the evening, but it would have passed anyway,

  • and that theatre has transformative potential.

  • So his interest is in plumbing that potential.

  • And he says, to do that, to make theatre the most powerful thing it can be,

  • we have to focus on what it really is,

  • and he suggests a kind of thought experiment.

  • He said, "if you were to take an average theatre performance,

  • what could you take away from it and still have theatre?"

  • This is a way of getting to the irreducible minimum of theatre.

  • "Well," he said, "you can take away the curtains,

  • you can take away the scripts –a lot of theatre doesn't have scripts

  • you can certainly get rid of the director –a lot of theatre didn't have directors

  • you could get away with the lighting, as long as you can see it,

  • actually, even if you can't,

  • you could get away with the stage crew,

  • you could... in fact, you could get rid of the building."

  • He said, "You don't need any of this, really, for theatre.

  • What you do need, all you need for theatre,

  • is an actor in a space and somebody watching.

  • It could just be one other person, but an actor with an audience, that's it.

  • The actor performs a drama,

  • the fact of it being witnessed by an audience,

  • that relationship is theatre."

  • And he said, "If we're interested in making theatre powerful,

  • we should focus our efforts on that relationship

  • and on making it the best it can be."

  • And he said, "We should never add anything to it, unless it improves it.

  • If it's a distraction, get rid of it."

  • Well, you see, the parallel with education to me is absolutely exact.

  • In education, in the end, what we're talking about

  • is the relationship between teachers and students,

  • between somebody learning and somebody helping.

  • Sometimes it's self-help, of course.

  • But it's that relationship that matters and over time what's happened

  • is that relationship has become obscured

  • and encrusted and obliterated in some respects

  • by every type of distraction, national policy sometimes,

  • by testing regimes where they don't contribute to the process,

  • by bargaining rights, by subject loyalties, by building codes.

  • It's like an old painting that's disappeared

  • under layers and layers of varnish.

  • And I find it interesting, people can talk all day

  • about education, but never mention learning.

  • And therefore, what I'm arguing is that the education revolution

  • has to be based on a radical commitment

  • to improving learning, however that happens.

  • It's not about curricula in themselves, it's about the quality of that.

  • And you can have all kinds of things going on in education, around it,

  • but unless learning is deepened and improved,

  • and that means making it personal,

  • then nothing really else matters very much.

  • So, it leads me to suggest some core principles

  • for taking the revolution forward.

  • The first is that education has to be personalised.

  • Every student has their own story,

  • every student has their own menu of interests and of talents.

  • It has to be about them.

  • It has to be about improving the motivation and opportunity

  • for creativity of teachers.

  • Teaching is an art form. It's not just a delivery system.

  • Great teachers are people who know how to mediate their material,

  • in a way that really does inspire the imaginations

  • and ignite the creativity of their students.

  • Secondly, education has to be customised.

  • Wherever students learn, that is the education system for them.

  • It's not the committee rooms of our parliament buildings,

  • it's not the board rooms of our examinations boards.

  • Education happens in the schools or learning communities that students attend

  • and that for them is the system.

  • So, customising education to those students, to this place,

  • these needs, this community, is absolutely critical.

  • And the other key principle to me is diversity.

  • Our current drive towards standardisation offends the principle of diversity

  • on which human life depends and flourishes.

  • If you're a parent or a sibling

  • and you have a couple of children or a couple of siblings,

  • I'll make you a bet.

  • If you have two or more children or siblings, I bet you

  • that they are completely different from each other, aren't they?

  • I mean, you would never confuse them, would you?

  • "Which one are you? I'm constantly mudding you up."

  • And the reason is that human life is inherently diverse,

  • and we need to celebrate that in our school systems.

  • Instead, too often, we subscribe to a rather bland menu of conformity.

  • And the final principle here is about partnership.

  • Education isn't just what happens in formal school buildings,

  • it should involve great institutions, like the Southbank Centre,

  • like the Roundhouse, like our great museums,

  • our great science institutions.

  • It should be a genuine partnership with the community more generally.

  • So, to me these principles open up a whole menu of issues for debate,

  • about the curriculum, about the balance of it.

  • I think it's appalling that we ever contemplate

  • a national system of education, for example,

  • which doesn't get equal weight to the arts along with the sciences,

  • the humanities, and physical education, as well as literacy and numeracy.

  • It's... it has big implications for pedagogy,

  • for who teaches and how we help them to learn how to teach better.

  • It has big implications for assessment

  • and it has big implications for the structure of education.

  • I think we should be talking today

  • not just about formal schooling, but home schooling,

  • about all the different ways in which learning communities gather

  • and how they're organised internally to make the job the most effective.

  • In the end, I think there isn't a more important conversation to be had, just now,

  • than how we transform education to meet the needs of the 21st century,