Tuesday, 3 December 2013

My thoughts on education and how British education standards can be improved

Ladies and gentlemen, it has been revealed tonight on Channel Four news, in the Independent and elsewhere that PISA tests British children of GCSE age only overall scored 26th in mathematics, 23rd in reading and 20th in science out of 65 nations which PISA tests occurred in-no better than 4 years ago.

Not surprisingly, ConDem Education Secretary Michael Gove tried to spin this to say that education policies under Labour had failed, forgetting to mention that 3 of the past 4 years have been spent under the ConDems. Labour's education reforms have not turned out well in some areas,yes, but the ConDems' proposed 'reforms' to education will actually cause standards to slip even further-especially with the increased academisation Mr. Gove wants.

Differences in educational culture, and also social culture, account for much of the more signifcant  differences between nations-and especially us and East Asian nations, whose cultures often place a particularly high value on education compared to European nations.

The UK's education system does have several flaws that contribute to its rather medicore standing that should have been ironed out some years ago. Class sizes in British secondary schools tend to average at around 30 pupils per class in state schools (independent schools in Britain have half this number per class)-most equivalent publicly-run schools in other developed nations only have 20 pupils per class on average, and large class sizes have shown to be a particular barrier to improvement of education standards in many state schools because teachers are not able to focus on some pupils' individual needs when it is necessary for learning, particularly with a persistent minority of disruptive pupils that most state secondary schools have.

The fact British children start school at the age of 5, and not 6 as happens in most nations (and in the view of educational psychologists, should happen here as well), and the excessive amount of testing young children have faced (and will face if Mr. Gove's reforms come through) means that the pressure young children come under can put some off education throughout the rest of their schooling, particularly in crucial periods. Although examinations are important, they should only be used in the later and final stages of compulsory education. Also, what must be remembered in light of the reduction of coursework components in many qualifications is that both coursework and examinations have importance-coursework allows pupils to demonstrate the long-term effort they are willing to make and (closed book) examinations can be useful in determining natural aptitude (among pupils without memory problems,anyway). As shown from stories in China and Hong Kong, an excessive focus on examinations is not that good for education overall , even with the high standards of education China and Hong Kong have, because frequent moments of stressful cramming can be psychologically damaging to human health in the long run, especially for those who fail.

Finally, the influence of corporate-driven media and businesses on children ,which is pretty problematic in the UK, needs to be reduced signifcantly, so that British children have more useful and realistic, but nevertheless good, role models to aspire to and to work towards, rather than for example, often-promoted and heavily publicised glamour models and pop stars, whose status far fewer people can ever potentially attain. 

Any thoughts, readers? 

Alan.

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