Finally the Government are asking questions about the purpose of education in England! This is one of the questions I’ve been asking ever since returning to the UK 6 years ago and inserting my children back to the educational system here.
In 1989, the UK ratified the UNCRC (United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child) where, amongst it’s many articles, can be found details of the right to education. In the UK all children do have the right to access an education as stated in article 28, but I believe the Government could be said to be in danger of ignoring the next article (29) which goes on to quantify what type of education a child is entitled to:
“The development of the child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential” UNCRC article 29 1(a)
“Successive Education Ministers have steered schools away from providing a “child-friendly, inspiring and motivating [education for] the individual child” (UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, 2001, p5) and instead have encouraged the “type of teaching that is focused primarily on accumulation of knowledge, prompting competition and leading to an excessive burden of work on children”, which according to the Committee for the Convention on the Rights of the Child “may seriously hamper the harmonious development of the child to the fullest potential of his or her abilities and talents” (UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, 2001, p5).”
Now that the Government are asking “What the purpose of education for children of all ages in England should be” I would like to direct them to the work already done by the UN which clearly states why we educate children – helping them discover who they are and enabling them to be and do all that they can.
If, as it seems, children have a ‘desire for more ‘real’ learning opportunities that (can) not be contained within the classroom,’ then it seems obvious for the classroom to be extended to the community – beyond the walls, where real life happens.
When I approached one of my daughter’s teachers about the real-life opportunities they’re given for ‘Catering’ GCSE I was astounded to discover that (apart from a token visit to a local cafe where they weren’t allowed in the kitchen!) it was ‘too difficult’ to arrange and ‘just wasn’t possible’. What a wasted opportunity!
So how difficult would it actually be?
Let’s imagine a Catering GCSE course that is extended beyond the walls…maybe start with a local chef (we have one who’s been on TV!) visiting them at school to demonstrate skills and inspire them – giving them something to aim for and leaving them with a challenge: create a 3 course meal (using elements they need to cover in the syllabus) that they can recreate in a set time in his kitchen for a special event (perhaps a meal for the local elderly lunch club). By looking beyond the walls, these young people would be inspired by someone who is not their teacher, given experience of working in a professional kitchen, encouraged to think outside themselves to what needs and tastes a different generation might have, learnt the skills necessary to produce the meal (as well as how to present it) and put a smile on a old ladies face!
For my daughter this exciting opportunity seems to be only a dream, a look beyond the walls, but does it have to stay this way?
I have never visited a school that excelled academically, which didn’t also excel in extracurricular activities.” Gove 03/02/14
In his recent speech Gove revelled in statistics, sung the praises of government and commended teachers across the country. He also hinted towards his latest ideas for the future, for schools to “provide a more enriching day”. I’m not a Gove supporter, but I aim to find the positive, the beauty, in education, so listened intently to his talk, searching for a nugget. Nearing the end, Gove elaborated on his plans for an “enriching day” and shared how extra-curricular activities “help to build character and instil grit, to give children’s talents an opportunity to grow and to allow them to discover new talents they never knew they had.” At last, something I can agree with Mr. Gove about!