Owen Barritt (hmmm_tea) wrote,
Owen Barritt

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General Rant About The Education System

Reading something recently has got me thinking about "labelling" within the education system. This was one of the major issues I had with the education system while I was teaching and went a long way towards me deciding it wasn't the right career.

For some bizarre reason we have an amazing urge to label people from a young age and to try and predict what they will turn into in the future. Why should it matter what you're going to get in your GCSEs for example when you're only 14?! Education seems to be more about passing tests and achieving qualifications then gaining knowledge and skills.

Predicting a child's grades using something like YELLIS seems just plain dangerous to me. As soon as you start labelling like that, you start promoting segregation of these children into different social classes. An obvious example is that of poor achievers, who end up getting put in low sets (the UK government have this strange idea that setting within schools should be the standard, despite the fact that there's actually quite a lot of research out there suggesting this might actually be a BAD IDEA!) and having been put there where is the incentive to try and achieve. You've told them you're not expecting them to do so by putting them there!

This is taken even further by the examination bodies, who create exam papers targetted at different ability ranges. Surely the only advantage to this is that it makes their life easier in that they don't have to find open questions for the assessment that could accept a variety of answers depending on the ability level. (a) This creates problems for so called borderline students who may be uneasy about taking a risk about going for a higher paper (b) limits students performance preventing them from surprising you on the day an achieving better than expected (ok, this isn't likely to happen, but the fact that it's a vague possibility may help encourage children).

Soham really opened my eyes to this. The groups there were streamed (like setting but you're put in the same ability group for all your subjects, so going on overall ability rather than that in a particular subject), I've heard a lot of people agree with setting, but say that this is wrong because it doesn't take into account that students may be particularly good at one subject, but particularly weak at another. However, in the same way, can't a student be particularly good at a particular part of one subject and particularly weak at another meaning the same arguement is true for setting?

Anywho, back to Soham. I had the delight of teaching a bottom set year 7 class there. There were about 7 boys in the group (no girls). OK, the staff there were keen for them to do well, as any school is for any group of people (gets you higher up in the league tables and all that...), but people didn't seem to really care about them getting anything out of it. It wasn't about "how can I help these children develop their skills", but more "this is a group of naughty boys, get them to behave and with a bit of luck we may get them to pass a few exams and we'll look better in the league tables as a result".

The education system doesn't accomodate people who don't fit the mould.

I strongly disagree with the class segregation within the old Tripartite System, but it did in a way admit that people are different and some may be more practical and some more academic, etc. It clearly doesn't work as you're still fitting people into moulds, you've just got 3 of them instead of one and as I've already said it promoted class segregation.

Surely education should be more about opening children up to the whole variety of skills there are out there so they can explore and see which way they can develop. Everyones got talents, it's up to the education system to help people find these and get the most out of them.

Although I'm not keen on public schools because they promote the segregation of the classes further, by separating children into paid and unpaid education sectors. I can see the advantage of them, in that they don't have the tight government rules to abide by and as a result you end up with schools like Summerhill. I have a lot of respect for Summerhill, because of the amount of freedom it provides for children to explore knowledge in their own way. It strikes me as one of the few schools in this country that concentrates on learning rather than acheiving qualifications.

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