Thursday, 29 August 2013

Education: Living as a struggling observer

I've been working with, in and around secondary education for a few years now and hear various accounts of what (apparently) occurs behind the walls of our educational institutions and manifests itself as education. I have to say 'apparently' because I struggle to believe that there really are teachers out there who encourage their pupils to call them by their first names or regale them with accounts of their social life and the like.

Mind you, I can remember being taken to task when, as a schoolboy, I invited my form master to call me 'Vic', the reason given was that since we were going to be working together there was little point in being formal about the relationship. I also remember including the teacher's name (Jim) and it was that that saw me heading off the the deputy head's office for a bit of corporal punishment!

Yes indeed folks, A.S. Neil and Summerhill School had a lot to answer for with this (as I realise now) precocious teenager. Neil's stated aims of making the school fit the child rather than vv really resonated with me and yet I now, as a wrinkly, find myself longing that education would be more like Neil's vision with a bit of oomph thrown in.

Things get worse when I hear of bright pupils who are failing because of circumstances outside of their won control and whilst I am a living example of then 'could do better' example of scholar I am also aware that some schools are apparently happy with producing low-quality products. Not only that but some are happy to manipulate their outcomes by farming out the lower end of the population to technical and vocational establishments (something I think is disgraceful as it stigmatises the more practical or mechanically-minded as second class from an earlier age than was before)!

Looking at the grades where I live today, and discussing them with one whose children travel away from our schools, I have come to realise that we are perhaps not serving our children well when it comes to education. I hear of children who are passing with Es (rather than ease) and have heard of more lower grade results this year than perhaps before (which might conveniently be blamed on Gove and the fiddling of the figures). I have found more young people packing their schoolbooks in their old kitbag and moving away from the place that appears to have failed them last year in the hope that the new place might redress the situation.

Nigel Molesworth - my hero and role model

Of course if the kids aren't digging in and doing the work then they deserve all that they don't get (so I'm told) but if they aren't chivied, nudged and challenged to do better then the finger returns to those who are paid to educate, and where is the redress then? I'm struggling as I sit and watch what is (apparently) occurring with the children on my community because they deserve more that that which they apparently get in secondary education.

So I write this as a struggling observer. Education is about maximising and achieving a child's full potential. It is about enabling them to have the widest choice of opportunities before them and to be fulfilled and content - it is not about maximising earnings or rising up the class system (we can leave this to the people who pay for the privilege of private education to perhaps do this)!

I seek to open the eyes of the children around me as to what they can do. To encourage them to dream dreams and to make them become reality and yet this is missing from their accounts of what appears to be happening in their school life. The teachers who encouraged, imparted passion and excited with their subject just don't appear to be there (please tell me this isn't true) and instead we have teachers who are unable to control their classes and who resort to ranting, raving and screaming as their normal mode of work.

I'm struggling and whilst I try to maintain a balanced view feel reason and belief in the system slowly disappearing only to be replaced by something I'd rather not be feeling. For if I, outside of the system feel like this, how on earth do the teachers and pupils feel?


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