Sunday, May 17, 2009

Becta.. Capita... other things ending in 'a'.. (and 'o', and 'net' etc.) - Part 1

Some people have been asking me by email for a long time to write about the above, which is a bit like asking me to climb Ben Nevis. (That's not a complaint, by the way. Please keep the requests coming!) I probably can do it, but it takes some planning and quite a bit of time. And a warm coat [cardigan] and lots of cups of tea. And a map. Where's the map?? Um.. we'll just keep plodding uphill and hope for the best, then.

One of the first things I want to know is: what does Becta - assuming it's an acronym - stand for? Then: where did the idea come from? But first things first. Surely it's got a Wikipedia page... Yes! That makes things easier. OK, it's the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency.

It was established in 1998 through the reconstitution of the National Council for Educational Technology (NCET). Becta is a company limited by guarantee with charitable status. It is based on Millburn Hill Road in Canley, Coventry in the grounds of the University of Warwick Science Park. In its capacity it oversees the procurement of all ICT equipment and e-learning strategy for schools. It is a member of European schoolnet.

How does a government agency get to be a company limited by guarantee, with charitable status? It's like the best of all worlds, isn't it? Independence, profits, tax breaks and protection in insolvency.

Obviously, we need to find out more about European schoolnet. That has a Wikipedia page too, I see.

European Schoolnet or EUN is a network of 31 Ministries of Education in Europe and beyond. EUN was created more than 10 years ago with the aim to bring about innovation in teaching and learning to its key stakeholders: Ministries of Education, schools, teachers and researchers.

- not children, or even parents, then. Of course, the children are what's at stake, aren't they? So they can't be the stakeholders as well.

stake² n. 2 (often foll. by in) an interest or concern, esp. financial.

So, what does European Schoolnet do?

Through various research projects and networks of pilot schools and local coordinators across Europe, European Schoolnet carries out studies on topics such as the use of games in schools, internet safety, use of learning objects and many other topics.

Wait, there's more:

European Schoolnet works as a European platform for schools to achieve effective use of technologies in teaching and learning, promote the European dimension in education, develop new pedagogical approaches and equip teachers and learners with new skills and raise interest in subjects such as maths, science and technology.

Did you spot that? Promote the European dimension in education. That's indoctrination, to you and me.

Here is something called Xplora which is

the European gateway to science education. It is aimed at teachers, pupils, scientists, science communicators and science educators.

It has a page about an educational organisation called SEED:

A volunteer-based, non-profit education program focused on underserved communities where Schlumberger people live and work.

Schlumberger people? Here they are:

Schlumberger Limited is the world's largest oilfield services corporation operating in approximately 80 countries, with about 82,000 people of 140 nationalities. Operating revenue in 2008 was US $27.16 billion with a market capitalization as of May 5, 2009, of US $63.77 billion.

Some of the SEED stuff is very interesting to read about, especially a project they're promoting called Smartwired, which turns out to be the brainchild of Dawna Markova, who first conceived it when she:

..was a young, energetic teacher, eager to help her students succeed and feel the joy of learning. Some of her students had been labeled as slow, lazy, or troublemakers, but she intuitively knew that every child was smart in his or her own way and believed that all of them had the capability to learn and succeed. She decided to create what she thought of as an “operating manual” for her students--a way to keep track of their individual skills, talents, interests, and strengths.

On a whim she covered a classroom wall with sheets of newsprint, one for each child, and invited parents to write something positive about how their child learned. She also invited other adults in each child's world--their music teacher, gym coach, big brother, after-school babysitter, grandmother, etc. to provide their input as well.

On that newsprint, a picture began to emerge for each child: a pattern of successes, a list of interests, a description of talents, and more. If she needed ideas for motivating a child, Dr. Markova would go to the child's picture and easily generate new ideas on how to reach him or her. Other teachers soon began visiting her classroom to get resources and ideas from the wall and a new "permanent record" of success was created that followed those children to the next grade, and the next, and the next. Using current technology, SmartWired has transformed that "permanent record" and replaces the newsprint on the wall by providing every child with his or her own unique transportable archive of learning strengths.

This sounds like a great system if a child needs to be provided with external motivation to learn something. Personally, I'd be questioning why that was the case if I was struggling to work in such a situation - hence the unlikelihood of me doing so! Elective home education allows for a child to be only internally motivated, which cuts out the need for all of that 'how to motivate the child' palaver.

So anyway, Becta is actually a relatively small part of a wider European network of similar national organisations, which turns out itself to be part of a global Unesco initiative called SchoolNet.

So, who's behind that? I obviously need to read more about Unesco.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations established on 16 November 1945. Its stated purpose is to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through education, science, and culture in order to further universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and the human rights and fundamental freedoms proclaimed in the UN Charter.

What, it just swang into being, conveniently, right at the end of WWII? Ah, apparently not:

It is the heir of the League of Nations' International Commission on Intellectual Cooperation.

..And the International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation:

was an advisory organization for the League of Nations which aimed to promote international cultural/intellectual exchange between scientists, researchers, teachers, artists and other intellectuals. It was established in 1922, and counted such distinguished members as Henri Bergson, Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Béla Bartók, Thomas Mann, Salvador de Madariaga, and Paul Valéry.

While the League of Nations itself:

was an inter-governmental organization founded as a result of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919–1920. At its greatest extent from 28 September 1934 to 23 February 1935, it had 58 members. The League's goals included upholding the new found Rights of Man, disarmament, preventing war through collective security, settling disputes between countries through negotiation, diplomacy and improving global quality of life.

As for its origins:

The concept of a peaceful community of nations had been outlined as far back as 1795, when Immanuel Kant’s Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch outlined the idea of a league of nations that would control conflict and promote peace between states.

Well, this takes us a long way from Becta, doesn't it? I just wanted to try to think about where it fitted into the bigger picture. Next, I'm looking back in an attempt to work out the origins of Becta, by reading whatever I can find about its forerunner: the National Council for Educational Technology. I also want to look at some of the more recent things Becta has been involved with.

As for Capita.. we'll get onto that eventually.

And why am I writing a series of blog posts looking at Becta, Capita, other things ending in 'a' (and 'o', and 'net' etc.)? Not only because I was asked - I do want to find out more about them, because before the review I didn't give any of them too much thought. Like everyone else, I was just peacefully getting on with being a good parent. And now here is the chairman of Becta being asked by the government to review us, to ascertain whether we're all potentially child abusers and if a change in the law is required, or feasible. Suddenly it seems very important to try to work out where they're coming from.


Blogger Sheila said...

Thanks for doing this :) Hope you have been well supplied with tea.

"Suddenly it seems very important to try to work out where they're coming from."

Couldn't agree more.


10:31 am, May 18, 2009  
Anonymous Elizabeth said...

Wow Gill is there more than one of you?

4:42 pm, May 18, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

Yes I have thanks Sheila. Red bush with rice milk - my latest craze.

No Elizabeth, it feels like less than one some days.

7:59 am, May 19, 2009  
Anonymous Tracey said...

"The principal funding for Becta is from the Department for Children Schools and Families (DCSF)"

9:37 am, May 19, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the things that worries me about this is that Becta etc are semi-seperate from this Government and that makes me think if the Tories win next year (as they probably will) then we are not in any better position. I have seen nothing from them to suggest they would support EHE families any more than Labour.
There's money to be made and agendas to be pushed and change of Govt wont help.
Is there any hope I am wrong?

8:50 am, May 20, 2009  

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