Friday, 1 October 2010

It's Education Season

Yes, it's education season and not a day goes by without a TV programme or an article in the paper that doesn't indulge in education-bashing. There are items for every possible audience: 

Three boys go to a private school: Britain's Youngest Boarders

What surprises me about all these documentaries and articles I've been through is that they are all negative and they all talk about education in an abstract way, like it's metaphysics. There's very little said about the effect different approaches on education have on the children, on what should and shouldn't be taught and how school is a mirror of society.

We are so worried about test scores and ofsted reports that we forget to ask ourselves whether the children are learning. Are we encouraging them to learn, to be curious, to help each other out? 

And of course, there's no talk about music. From our earliest recorded history, music has been a key part in education: In Pythagoras' school of thought, music was taught alongside mathematics. Many medical studies show that learning music at any age, but especially between the ages of five and ten, stimulates the activation of parts of the brain that wouldn't otherwise be used, develops spacial awareness, lateral thinking, social skills and mathematical reasoning. 

Why, then, is it so overlooked? I think, partly, because it is hard to teach well. Unlike maths or science, music has an intangibility that makes it difficult to standardise, and that makes bureocrats unhappy. So music teachers are left to their own devices, often with no support and very small budgets.

Music is possibly the most ubiquitous of man-made things (although the iPhone's getting close), yet it is tragically misunderstood. Surely we can find it in ourselves to change this?


  1. I couldn't agree more with this, nicely put! I was reading in the international edition(!!) of the Sunday Times an article on Gareth Malone's new BBC show...their was backlash from a few anonymous teachers who had blogs.

    Despite his innovative and inclusive approach to education, it was unsurprising for me to see the defensive attitude among some class teachers in retaliation to his good endeavors. This type of “Can’t-do” attitude amongst teachers is one of the cardinal problems I have seen and experienced within education at every level ( as a teacher AND student!)

    Its time for change! Responsibilities as teachers, are more important than ever... that is, to educate, impart, and inspire :-)

  2. ok, can i be blunt? for once i am asking instead of being. perhaps that is the fear of the spiked cactus.

    here is a link to a 20min talk from the TED series out of california and is given by ken robinson who i have never heard of but seems to be prominant within the education world. this talk deals with the destruction of creativity within the education systems around the world.

    now i remember reading a book about 8 years back called we have had a 100 years of psychotherapy and the world is getting worse. it was interesitng. two american therapist having a conversation about the effects of psychotherapy on the general population within america. their angle was that whilst psychotherapy within america seemed to be about getting people to cope better, the mecahnism that are used dull the person where they should be looking to get their patients to accept and revel within the strange traits that make up anyone who is human. the strange quirks that is within all of us psychotherapy would attempt to iron out whereas they were thinking that they should be embraced since those strange quirks can be the engines that drive many of our creative abilities. to them it was as if psychotherapy did the opposite. and that attempt to corral those strange traits leave many with an awful anxiety of attempting to cope going against the very essence of who we are. similiarly to how education attempts to forge the majority to a certain model which makes us functioning members of the economy.

    except the economy that shapes the western world is in turmoil. this is a wonderful moment. not because i am a card carrying member of the socialist workers party but because we are all going to have to reimagine much of our lives and what we grew up thinking and hoping for ourselves.. and it will be our creativity that, for me , will allow for us to reimagine.

    the question then is how does this take place. especially when if we are out of school and in the world we still have to survive and make a living whislt knowing that the education we received was not what we now realise we wanted yet there is no magic wand we can wave to make a paradigm shift to a new education world. mm, i am as stumped as most people but i would say this: why do we learn so much within the first 5 years of our lives in comparison to our later years? i realise that their are physiological reasons which are prefound but those physiological reasons take place when we spend most of our time playing and those games are helping us to make vital connections that we will use for the rest of our lives. yet as we grow our sense of play recedes and we all become serious and sometimes dulled, which blunts so many of the traits that i think are vital to all of us. whilst there are many things that we can;t 'play' through and to develop skills you have to take seriously your talent and value them but somehow i still feel that that sense of 'play' from those years was often driven by curiosity to absorb the world around. and somehow our curiosity, to me, to lead to our creativity. and by dev eloping those traits and how to develop these traits are important. but how to do that within the formal setting of school, well i just don't know

    (to sticklers for spelling forgive me, patterns within numbers are easy for me but the phonetics of words i always struggled with)

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