Sunday, September 13, 2009

Does our education system delight both teacher and taught?

With the start of a new school year and parents and children all over the country thinking once more about grades and marks and passing exams, it's a suitable time to consider whether our education system is really delivering what our children and what our society need. My overriding impression after having been a secondary school teacher in the U.K. for the past twenty years is that I've been on a merry-go-round. I've seen things being introduced, then abolished, then introduced again. I've seen more and more exams and tests being introduced and now some of those new exams and tests are being abolished -- and, perhaps, in the future they'll be reintroduced again; who knows? I've had to cut interesting discussions short in class because otherwise I wouldn't have completed the syllabus and been able to do past paper practice with students before the all-important exams. The students have been fixated on getting the highest grades they could because otherwise they wouldn't be able to get into university or do whatever else they wanted to do and would be deemed failures.

The paperwork for teachers has increased substantially because of the increase in the number of examinations and all kinds of other regulations that politicians have seen fit to introduce. Don't politicians just love to interfere with education even though they don't have a clue what teaching actually involves? Expressions of thanks from parents and pupils have grown fewer and fewer whilst complaints have grown ever greater.

The 'aha' moments I've seen in my pupils' faces and the strong bonds I've developed with my colleagues, most of whom are remarkable human beings - intelligent, caring, very hardworking and often showing a much needed sense of humour - have been rewarding. However, the system as it exists at the moment is far from ideal and the longer one is in it, the more aware one becomes of its failings. If teachers could get on with their jobs without interference from politicians; if we could get rid of restrictive syllabuses and fact-based exams that do nothing to promote independent, creative thought; and if we could stress cooperation with others rather than competition, then perhaps – as I say in my book It's a Teacher's Life...! (an amusing, often ironic collection of 'anecdotal' poems relating to the teaching profession) - it will be possible to

'create another
indisputable reality
where education delights
both teacher and taught
and restrictions and syllabuses
are but a long, distant memory.'

My ideal would be an education system where teachers are much more facilitators than instructors. Pupils would be able to choose what they want to study and how they want to study, aided by their teachers, and because they would be learning what they want to learn, there wouldn't be any motivational or behavioural issues. Classes would be much smaller than they are today and prescriptive syllabuses and exams would be a thing of the past. Such a system would produce creative, independent thinking adults, which is what our world desperately needs if it is to find creative solutions to the problems that are facing us today.
What do you think? Do you think that our current education system delights both teacher and taught?


  1. I think that teachers does a fantastic job
    as all pupils are individuals and have different interest, My grandson is doing well at school at the moment he loves each day there and get good grades, he has a happy home life and his parents respect him and vice versa, My other three grandchildren however are not doing so well their parents are divorced, they see their dad (My son) each week-end but they are not as happy as my other grandson.......can it be that a pupils attitude of school begins at home?
    Perhaps I am wrong but I have often wondered.
    All my grandchildren are loved that goes without saying but I do know three of them are not so self assured.


  2. I think that the home environment can play a very big part in the attitude of a pupil to school, Yvonne, but the system as it exists in schools at the moment is not, in my opinion, helping pupils like your 3 grandchildren who are not doing so well at school at the moment. I ask myself what their progress would be if a system existed that promoted independent thought and cooperation with others rather than repetition of facts and competition. What would their progress be if they were researching topics/problems that they were interested in (under the supervision and guidance of the teacher), learning for the sheer joy of wanting to find out more about something that really motivated them, without having to worry about passing this test and that test?

    It would be interesting to find out, don't you think?


  3. I think that parents have to take responsibility for adding to their children's education because of the school situation. I am creating an online course in the history of art and architecture which can be used by adults and children of most any age. The site is
    The site is broken into micro lessons. The lessons are question based and full of great pictures from art created around the world. If parents use it with their children everyone will learn. If parents and children make something after going through a micro lesson, such as a painting, or a story book based on the micro lesson the knowledge will be much deeper. In order to make something each person has to think about what they have just seen.

    If you use this site, I need to know just so I can communicate with you. My email is

  4. Hello, Katherine, and thank you so much for stopping by and leaving a comment. Your course sounds great and is a wonderful way encourage creativity, and I love the name the 'ahaafoundation'! I wish you the best of luck with it.