A related story in the Economist about the rise of standards and accountability:
IN 1899 John Dewey, an American education theorist, published "The School and Society". He argued that schooling should reflect the lives of children, as well as what they had to be taught. His theories spawned a vogue for "child-centred learning", accelerating in the 1960s into a challenge to school hierarchies and a carelessness about exams.
That kind of laissez-faire approach to learning has receded in many places. Nowadays, everyone wants to measure outcomes. The most prominent American charter schools, strongly focused on getting poor children into college (see main story), insist that children do regular mental arithmetic between lessons. Germany has also tightened up its examination system in the past decade, to help standardise results.
The horse before the cart
Some experiments have failed. Others are now entering the mainstream
Sep 17th 2011 | from the print edition