May 16, 2018 at 10:48 am #4608
Following on from the current debate on school funding allocation I began to wonder what purpose schools do or should serve?
To take but one example – people of faith evidently believe that schools should provide pupils with a strong religious foundation to their lives and (religious) tenets to follow. Others think this is abhorrent.
So, what are schools for? Should they nurture civil responsibility in their pupils? Help non native English speakers learn the language? Uncover and support potential premier league footballers or musical virtuosos? Should they be teaching climate change awareness? How to become a good actor or get a job at the BBC? Or perhaps they should be there to instil a sense of confidence and self worth in their pupils? Or fill them with ambition? Or perhaps they should attempt to produce future employees who will work hard and keep their heads down?
Should they encourage social mobility or explain that not everyone can earn an above average wage or live in an expensive area? Should they allow party politics into schools? Or feminism? Or study the alt-right movement? Should they offer opinions on the subjects they teach or leave it to pupils to form their own ideas? Should they teach only STEM subjects or do the arts have a place in schools? Ought they to be teaching grammar or are we now in a post grammar age? Are dead languages appropriate on a curriculum? Should they point out to their pupils that some of the things they are being taught as ‘facts’ aren’t actually true? Should they teach personal finance management or about STIs?
The list is endless so the above is only a tiny fraction of what schools could teach but what should they teach and why?
May 16, 2018 at 10:48 am #4609
‘m slightly replying in haste but firstly, I suspect many people like “faith” schools because in general they provide a good all round education. I know that that is what my children got at primary level, and the “faith” side (apart from a general moral grounding) was not strongly pushed upon them.
Now, with two at different secondary schools, I just wish the schools were able to teach the 3Rs to an adequate standard!
Judging by what I see on Facebook and on forums (fora!) these days, nobody even learns the basics any more.
May 16, 2018 at 10:49 am #4610
It’s always seemed to me that in some ways schools are detention centres.
Sadly the behaviour of what has been described by a local shopkeeper as “a flood of rats” at lunchtime makes me wonder what these kids are thinking – the bahaviour is at times animalistic.
State Schools are NOT resourced enough to give kids any real individual attention unless they are the nail that sticks up. On the whole, it’s the parents that make a difference to their kid’s potential achievement. Sadly, so many of the kids just don’t want to be there and find school a bad experience. There are few inspiraitonal teachers, they are just struggling to get by wiht all the administration and management forced on them. All the lofty ideals of what education should be are just that, lofty ideals, the system is so underfunded that education is preparing for the exams that feed the league tables and management KPI’s. Teaching kids id not the purpose of schools now, the kids are merely statistics in a political blame game.
My take away lessons from having 2 at a state school are making a budget for tutors and learning assistance – you’ll need it.
I do wonder whether the whole compulsory school from 4-16 really works, we should perhaps set some clear expectations wiht parents that kids have to be able to read, but to start schooling at 4 is too early imho, And if kids are too disruptive or simply won’t do go to school, then they should be allowed to leave at any time after say second year when they have basics. Why should teachers have to put up with disruptive, borderline criminal behaviour form kids that just don;t want to be there. They are making a choice, there are consequences for that choice and they are the ones that will have to bear the brunt of that choice.
Schools can be dangerous places – knives, drugs, victimisation are encountered every day.
May 16, 2018 at 10:50 am #4611
I do wish we’d had more political stuff in school, unless you did A level it wasn’t mentioned and it mostly managed to pass me by and in a democracy I think it would be useful if people knew how things worked.
I think maybe pupils should start when they fancy it I was desperate to go at just 4 (august birthday), was forced to do half days for the first term and cried/whinged every lunch time when I had to go home and miss out on stuff
May 16, 2018 at 10:51 am #4612
Some parents now expect school to be the place where their children learn to speak, eat properly and toilet themselves.
I think schools are now so busy having to introduce the most basic of skills that teachers have very little time for what we construe as ‘education’.
May 16, 2018 at 11:00 am #4613
My main aim for sending my daughter to school was to teach her how to work with other people, deal with other people and hopefully make friends. Anything else is a bonus!
May 16, 2018 at 1:26 pm #4627
That’s the most interesting response so far Do you want her to pass exams and understand maths, language etc or just learn how to be co-operative and popular?
May 16, 2018 at 1:26 pm #4626
I think that schools should teach children the skills they need to survive as adults and basic knowledge that will allow them to develop into a useful member of society.
I think core subjects should revolve around society and living life – so basic mechanical, electrical, biological and chemical principles in science, how to read and understand a piece of writing and know how the words and phrases used are having an effect on you emotionally for English, arithmetic, finances, statistics and geometry for Maths, plus basic politics, basic law, basic IT and physical education in the sense of how to stay fit and healthy (including some food tech), and a language. I think that over and above that students should be given tasters in different subjects (art, history, music etc) with the option to study in more detail in the last couple of years, and the option to take the core stuff further.
I think the current system of spending 5 years drumming over the same syllabus in the core subjects so that you can pass a fairly specific exam at the end of it is unhelpful.
May 16, 2018 at 1:29 pm #4629
I agree completely with your first paragraph. Parents have this responsibility first and foremost but it seems that many either can’t or won’t accept their duty to their children in this regard and either expect teachers to do it for them or don’t actually care either way.
I have to admit that I haven’t a clue what the current syllabus looks like but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t include sufficient (any?) tuition in how to manage personal finances. Since very few of us can manage without obtaining and paying loans/rent/mortgages or paying bills it seems like a glaring omission, especially if parents aren’t doing their job of raising their children to live in society.
May 16, 2018 at 3:29 pm #4643
I think this is largely reasonable. I would say that history is probably more important than art or music – I find that coupling a bit peculiar. History is, I think, vital to our understanding of modern society, democracy (and the alternatives, consequences thereof, trends in politics etc), and current international affairs. I’d be very disappointed, and concerned for future generations if it were relegated to a limited option, like music and art (which I think are valuable for humanity but of limited use to many who study them).
I do think there is a place for grammar and archaic languages too, but the former should be central to the curriculum, while the latter are less universally important. I think everyone should have a grounding in grammar, or we’ll all be in communications-based chaos, whereas archaic languages are only useful for those with an interest in languages, history or similar, looking to progress in those spheres.
I think soft skills – interpersonal skills etc – and life skills are hugely important, from things like sexual health to basic financial skills. I also strongly believe in teaching of religions in schools – teaching their histories, basic concepts and principle beliefs – not for indoctrination into a religious method, but for understanding, tolerance and consideration of those around us.
These are all things the curriculum aims to deliver – but I’m not convinced it always does. I think that – as with everything – the quality of delivery depends on those who are teaching it, and to an extent, the receptivity of those who are being taught. Young people aren’t influenced by their school life alone – if they can’t take on the education offered in schools – because of their genetic capabilities, or their background, or their current environment and the support for their education at home – there’s very little the school can do to compensate for that.
May 16, 2018 at 3:30 pm #4644
To clarify the point on history – I believe it is very important, but then I also believe things like music and art are very important, for a child’s understanding of themselves and society, but I think that the history taught in schools now is pretty limited and seems to focus heavily on some key events and it’s not history in a proper academic sense. So I think releasing it from the core curriculum (actually I’m not sure it is even core now…?) would allow it to be more flexible
May 16, 2018 at 3:31 pm #4645
@nerdkid History is a core subject until KS3 currently – I don’t think it particularly focuses key events though. In my experience there is limited focus on events, and more of a focus (in lower school) on how people lived in different times. I don’t think that’s hugely helpful – I think it’s more important for children to learn about how past events have shaped the modern world (which, to be fair, was my experience of history at GCSE and A Level).
I don’t actually think music and art are hugely important, as they’re currently taught. I do think that they’re important in teaching some of the soft, transferable skills which students need to learn, and that they have significant cultural value, with the potential to be much more valuable aspects of the curriculum than (I think) they currently are.
May 16, 2018 at 3:32 pm #4646
I like history and find it interesting.
I did not like history as a subject past about year 7 though. The topics did seem quite restrictive/not very joined up.
May 16, 2018 at 1:27 pm #4628
I would have really appreciated some form of money management education.
I’m dyscalculic and up until 4th year with a sympathetic teacher and an outside tutor, I scraped an C in an intermediate GCSE paper from Wales.
I learned nothing about maths as I literally couldn’t get my head around it, sank to the bottom and was screamed at for being stupid.
My primary school headmaster used to put his head in his hands and cry with me.
My classes which made the biggest impact in terms of ‘education’ were English, art, music and history. No way do I think the latter three should be supplementary. They have helped build my own career.
Science, technology and business studies have proved to have limited application in the real world (I know my tools lol) but my French was a big help.
May 16, 2018 at 1:39 pm #4641
Maths is my weakest point too although there’s no actual reason for it, unlike in your case. Of all my exam results it was the worst and my school tried to make me sit my exam early because they mistakenly thought I was good at maths!!! No idea how they came to that conclusion and I refused to do it.
STEM subjects are very heavily promoted at present and I agree absolutely that they are very important and it is vital that we get girls doing them in greater numbers if they have the talent and desire. My degree is in languages (French & English) so that’s what got me into my career too. I used to write all sorts of comms in the civil service before ending up in my later years working on policy which obviously still involved language skills.
May 16, 2018 at 3:34 pm #4647
I think the most important things for children to learn, is how to learn. How to find information, follow instructions, try things out, persist, be creative, try different approaches. How to weigh up the evidence and use it to inform your knowledge, how to assess if a source is reliable. The actual subjects, IMO, are not that important. If you know how to learn, you can apply that to any subject area when you have the need or inclination.
I actually did have financial education at sixth form, we were taught about mortgages etc. Less than ten years later, it’s all completely forgotten, long before I actually need to use it. When I do, I’ll look it up. I don’t really see why it needs to be taught in schools, it’s easy enough to find the information when you need it. Same with how to pay a bill. If you can’t spend five minutes googling it when the time comes, are you really capable of living alone?
I think we need to teach people not to expect be spoon-fed information, but to learn how to find things when we need them. It’s like the cries of “didn’t you learn that at school??” when someone admits to not knowing where somewhere is, for example. We don’t need people to retain large amounts of information any more, the internet has rendered that a relatively useless skill. We need people who know how to find information quickly and easily, and are able to assess whether the source of their information is reliable.
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