A couple of news items regarding education, on most channels during the past few days in this country, have motivated me to blog again. One report was about the education of some children in South Korea and their exhausting days of school education followed by paid for after-school classes that did not finish until 10 at night (one teenager interviewed went to bed at 2.00am and was then up for school at 6.30am). The other was the UK’s position in the World league tables for maths, reading and science, we are at the average point, in 26th position. The BBC headline states that the “UK stagnates” or is in a similar position to the last year’s test results, mediocre and average.
Past blogs have considered the lack of play, music education and starting formal education too early as some of the reasons for a lack of progress up the league tables. Another factor is the devaluing of teachers, or put another way: introduce a system of funding for schools that makes it very difficult for managers to employ and/or retain experienced staff as they take too much of the budget in salaries. Allow educational institutions to set their own salaries (with no reference to nationally agreed pay scales) and then renegotiate salaries. As teachers become more professional, experienced and knowledgeable about their subject area disincentivise them by asking them to take pay cuts rather than reward excellence.
I hear more and more examples of this in the music sector, qualified teachers being asked to re-deploy as unqualified teacher or teaching assistant (with revised pay rates) to save their jobs for a few extra months. Is this the way to motivate teachers to inspire our test takers to be able to achieve better than they ever expected? Successive governments commission reports on education and then tinker around the edges or hanker for the rose-tinted memory of “when I was at school”. Which government has had any empathy with pupils or the resolve to push a complete reforming programme (based on sound educational research, not political doctrine) through to it’s conclusion?
Suicides of school age children are very high in South Korea compared to other countries, the pressure of the system. The introduction of more compulsory maths, science and English lessons will push many of the creative subjects from the curriculum to the hobby status of an after-school activity. What hope of nurturing the future creative business owners, artists, writers, musicians, entrepreneurs, athletes, cyclists… ? Most will end up achieving despite rather than because of their education, not a good advert for policy makers and the systems they implement.