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.
The moment we’re born, we are learning – to walk and talk, eat and sleep. We don’t learn this in isolation, but by learning from others. We observe, listen, copy, fail and try again until we get it right. As we grow we do the same, learning from others around us, those who know how, who do it everyday or are just having a go themselves.
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?
Schools are very practised at numbering children, but does that really help?
I’m about to go to my youngest child’s parents meeting. He’s in Year 6, so his teacher is going to tell me his ‘level’, compare it to the level all the other children in his year up and down the country will be expected to achieve and then talk to me about why it’s important he works harder before the SATs.
He advocates that we need to bring school to life and suggests how: “What if we were to say that, starting this year, even with our children in K–5, at least half of the time they spend on schoolwork must be on stuff that can’t end up in a folder we put away? That the reason they’re doing their schoolwork isn’t just for a grade or for it to be pinned up in the hallway? It should be because their work is something they create on their own, or with others, that has real value in the real world.” Continue reading →