“Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.” ~ Albert Einstein
Now that the UK’s 56th general election has been so decisively concluded, and the ramifications of the results are already being endlessly debated, I got to thinking about one of the most important issues for me personally – education. Amidst the weeks of tedious campaigning it reminded me of the much used and successful Labour battle cry, when Tony Blair stormed to victory in 1997.
Education. Education. Education.
It’s an important issue. It’s fundamental to most parents and voters. You want the best for your children. If governments got this right, I have a feeling the economy and many of society’s woes would take care of themselves down the road.
We only get one chance to provide a solid foundation for our youngsters. Their minds are like sponges until the age of eight, and their confidence is a fragile commodity well beyond that.
Does anyone have happy memories of their time at primary and secondary school? Do you remember feeling engaged with your subjects and teachers?
Sadly, mine are few and far between. I excelled at French and English, was hopeless at maths, (except Algebra), and loved drama, music and PE. I was bullied mercilessly at secondary school, and worse was to come at college, (but that will have to wait for another post).
Going to secondary school and higher education is a time of change and great upheaval: emotionally, hormonally, socially and mentally. If children already have a healthy sense of who they are and what they are good at, I propose they are less likely to go off the rails at this stage. It’s not to say they won’t experience any discomfort, but I think they are better equipped to weather the teenage storm.
But it seems the curriculum, especially for primary schools, is rigid and confined, with too much focus on literacy and arithmetic. Lots of rote learning of tables and phonics. Don’t even get me started about how ill equipped phonics are when it comes to spelling. My daughter spells a word exactly how it sounds, full stop.
Now, being a writer, I’m all for these important subjects to be taught, but they should be taught well, and not just by one method. Our children are individuals and will relate to teaching in their unique way.
Where is the focus on creativity? Why are music and the arts fighting to be on the curriculum? I wrote a previous post about The Importance of a Musical Education – a subject very close to my heart. Why are there not enough trips and visitors to talk to and show the kids different skills and professions? I know cost is a factor, but what is the cost of not improving our education system?
Good luck if your child is a square peg and doesn’t fit into a round hole, which is what mainstream schooling tries to shape them into. Heaven forbid a child should be ‘troublesome’ or have ‘learning difficulties’. In my humble opinion the ‘one size fits all’ approach is so damaging to children’s self-esteem and creative process. Anything can be learned. Original and creative thought are infinitely more valuable.
“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” ~ Albert Einstein.
We should not just be teaching them how to read and write, we should be teaching them skills for life. We should be helping them to discover their talents. Emotional intelligence is every bit as important as IQ.
We need more flexibility and imagination in our education system, not more targets.
When you were growing up did anyone truly inspire you to follow a path that lead to contentment and success? I was lucky to have a couple of really wonderful teachers who helped me in certain areas, but they are mostly confined to the system the government of the day imposes on them.
“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” ~ Albert Einstein
My 13 year old son William is currently studying at Princes Risborough School and is now choosing his Key Stage 4 options for GCSE. It has been an easy choice for him; he knows what he wants to do, what he enjoys and what he’s good at.
His three choices from the categories available are drama, history and business studies. I’m hoping he’ll do well in his June science exams and be chosen to study either triple or double science as part of his core subjects as well.
The school were very supportive during this process to both students and parents alike, recommending students follow the subjects they love and excel at, plus a technology subject, in consideration of the government’s Progress 8 performance measures.
It is predicted that students will change careers multiple times in their working lives, so to choose a subject for a lifetime is an almost impossible task. What really impressed me was that where students’ interests and government interests clash, they would always side with the student, having their best interests at heart within the set-up and capabilities of the school. Their motto is ‘Enjoy and Achieve’. A lot comes down to leadership. I’m thankful they have a great head teacher in Peter Rowe.
At William’s school they also get to do an enrichment activity weekly (with interests as diverse as beekeeping and falconry on the list), and PE (non-examinable) as part of their post Year 8 curriculums, in addition to taking a Citizenship GCSE and their core subjects of Maths, English and Science.
By the time my kids leave school I want them to believe that there is no glass ceiling on what they can achieve in their lives.
Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case in this TED Talk for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity:
He makes the insightful comments that children get ‘educated’ out of creativity, and that we should educate their whole being. I couldn’t agree more. It’s vital to help children discover their talents. He states that education is currently mechanical, and how it could improve if it were more organic. He talks about the need to create the conditions where children can flourish.
Sir Ken continues with his vision for education in his 2010 talk, Bring on the Learning Revolution:
The rise in home schooling shows the dissatisfaction parents have with such a narrow and institutionalised system.
Article in The Guardian about Home schooling and the rights of both children and parents.
In another TED Talk, teenager Logan LaPlante gives his take on hackschooling:
He sums it up perfectly: education is oriented to making a living rather than making a life.
A great blog on Higher Density highlighting what schools generally don’t teach about creative thinking.
Education is a lifelong process. I try to set the example for my kids by continued study, as well as putting myself in situations where I will be challenged physically, mentally and emotionally. I strongly believe that if I don’t push myself and get out of my comfort zone, I’ll never know what I’m truly capable of.
I feel that my role as a mother is to love, care for and nurture my children, which encompasses helping them to discover themselves, respect them for who they are and not who I want them to be, to have conviction and confidence in their ideas and abilities, become self reliant, have a meaningful set of values, a healthy self-esteem and dreams and aspirations to aim for, all in a supportive family environment.
In short, providing the necessary ingredients for them to lead happy, successful and fulfilled lives, where they can have a chance at reaching their full potential.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if schools had the same mandate?
“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.” ~ Albert Einstein