Sunday, July 25, 2010


The Bottom Line Problem with Education Lies in Our own Culture of Disdain Towards It

The Observer's article today on retired secondary school teacher Alan Hems-worth(pictured), considers his lifetime's experience of state education. He has seen a huge change in the system, the approach, the culture and he aims a number of arrows at the: National Curriculum, Targets and the obsession with Exam Results. No doubt all are valid criticisms to a degree, but it got me thinking about my own views after a lifetime in teaching: sedcondary, adult education and the higher sector too.

During the last fifty years we have seen some progress, but still we find a massive 15% of 16-18 year olds without work, education or training(NEETS). This is an appalling indictment of our failure to dissolve the disinclination of our poorest lumpen stratum of society to drink at the educational well. I use that metaphor deliberately because the fault is not just on the side of the state provider. The opportunity is there but so many youngsters do not want to take it. And this is the fundamental flaw in our system. The teachers are generally competent and well intentioned; my experience is that so many kids absorb the dominant culture of their peers and deride the notion of learning or acquiring skills generally.

Am I blaming the pupils? To some extent yes, If any highly paid critic of teachers who dismiss them as pathetic, were to attempt to do what teachers in tough urban areas do, they wouild keep very quiet. It is immensely hard to confront the sheer apathetic, subversive do-nothing, say nothing attitudes of kids who do not want to learn. I am surprised more teachers do not succumb to drugs, booze and nervous breakdowns.

Each generation a sliver of this almost immovable social group are peeled away and join those who relish the acquisition of an educated mind. But it's only a sliver. However much successive governments seek to fiddle and tweak the system, there is this huge reluctant elephant of cultural apathy which recruits our underclass, invests in incalculable future misery, wasted welfare spending and desperately undermines our international competitiveness. How do we solve the problem? I wish I knew, but my point is that this is the problem, not the system per se. Until we devise a solution to this oddly Anglo-Saxon problem(USA suffers from it too- most European countries much less so) we will always find NEETs weighing down our society and overburdening our support services.


This article is good for our knowledge and I think the opportunity is there but so many youngsters do not want to take it. And this is the fundamental flaw in our system.

Alan Smith….
Leap Education
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