‘The Forth Way – The Inspiring Future for Educational Change’ by Andy Hargreaves and Dennis Shirley weighs in at 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. Their focus is primarily on the UK, US, and Europe, but they occasionally mention Australian and New Zealand. They trace the evolution from the First Way (innovation and inconsistency), through the Second Way (markets and standardisation) and on to the Third Way (performance and partnerships). From here they analyse several instances of emergent ‘best practice’, including the well documented school system in Finland and ‘Tower Hamlets’ in the UK. Drawing on these examples, they chart a way forward that keeps the best of the Third Way, but moves away from the cultures of ‘customers’ and ‘accountability’.
From an Australian perspective it is interesting to hear the assumption of the authors that (with the exception perhaps of the US) we have moved beyond the Second Way of high stakes census-based testing because we all realised it was expensive and didn’t work. Recent commentary would suggest that perhaps we haven't really moved on here either.
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 general 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.