The British education system has been failing our children.
There are many reasons for this and many more criticisms than answers.
The replacement of the old Secondary Modern/Grammar/Technical School system by Comprehensives has increased the debate but not seemingly provided any answers.
I suffered under the earlier system but am unimpressed by the way my daughter was “Educated” at the local comprehensive.
I was good at science but poor at maths. Why poor at maths? Well a typical maths lesion went like this.
We entered the classroom and there were several problems on the board. The first was worked the others not. The teacher would run through the way the problem was solved and then say keep quite I have the last class’s books to mark.
Geometry was taught by a retired wrestler who, it was said, went into teaching to teach PT but found himself in a school with too many PT teachers so he was given geometry to teach. He knew less of geomerry than we did.
My daughter started school in the Netherlands. Two years in toddler school (optional) the school; was well equipped and the teachers well respected and much liked. Then, at six years old to junior school. At the pre-term parents evening we were told that Kate would be reading by Christmas. She was, not just Dick Bruna, she had had all the reading lesions she would ever need!
Dutch is like most other European languages phonetic. A sound represented by a certain letter on one occasion then it is represented by that letter on every other occasion. English spelling on the other hand is total rubbish. Because a loan word comes into English from, say, Latin then it must bring not only its spelling but as much grammatical baggage as possible too. WHY? Words from less prestigious languages have to fit in. The joke of this is that queen is spelled Cwene in Anglo-Saxon much the way a 6 year old would do. (though it is Cwen (with an umlaut over the e) if used as in Cwen Elizabeth)
Spelling started to become regular with the introduction of printing but by the 18th century spelling was still, as you will. You might spell “enough” so on Monday but “enuff” on Tuesday. English spelling was regularised, seemingly, more to prove how smart the regulerisers were than to make the language easier. Dr Johnson, was jokingly, said to be a man who could only spell a word only one way.
When we returned to the UK, Kate, who had learned to read Dutch in 3 months, spent two years in the remedial reading group. She still can’t spell (English) for toffee though her reading ability cannot be faulted.
English spelling should be sorted out. This would benefit not only our children but also it would make it easier for foreigners to learn English.
Back to education now. We need our education system to prepare our children for life. This means that they should learn skills not just how to pass silly tests.
Scrap the national curriculum.
Change the system to something like most continental countries use: -
A common junior school teaching the basics.
Secondary schools should be of, I suggest, five types, Grammar, Technical, Business, Agricultural and Arts.
Two or more of these could co-exist in one establishment if pupil numbers were few. These would provide the best education for all of our children rather than for the favoured few.
The advantage of separating these is that lessons would have context. English is English but a child at grammar school needs to learn to write essays, the Technical; school child to write reports and the arts school child needs to write creatively. Same thing different contexts.
The great thing about educating children in this way is that they see the need for their education and will be better motivated to learn.
The idea that a half of all children should go to university at 18 is another barking mad English idea. What benefit do most gain in university at this age, Would it not be more sensible to say that as many children as will benefit from university should be able to go but at when the time is right for them. One child will benefit from university at 18, another will do better by going to do an apprenticeship and then aged 30 or so go to do a degree to advance their career. As it is we are saddling out selves and our children with massive debts but to what purpose?
The next thing is how we select children for the different schools? This is done by advice from teachers combined with the wishes of the parents. The Dutch find that a bridge year between 11 and 13 helps to settle the decision.
The curriculum for each type of school would need to be decided. Those in tertiary education who could state the entry requirements for their courses could do this. Politicians are the very last people who should decide such matters.