As thousands of kids stay off of school today, as a protest against Sats testing, I’m guessing you’re scratching your head wondering where it all went wrong. You see, I believe that you are actually trying to make things better, call me naïve but I don’t believe that people go into public service to actually try and destroy things or make them worse, it just kind of happens along the way. So as a Mindfulness & Resilience Coach for children, I’d like to share my point of view about how I feel the changes in our education system are affecting our children.
As I see it, the main problem is that you have a distorted view of reality, that’s ok, we all do. That’s because our version of the world is created by our personal beliefs. Core beliefs are tricky things, because most of the time we don’t see our beliefs as such, they are just part of our personality, but their construction starts early on, defined by the first opinions we hear from our parents, family, friends, media and of course our personal experiences along the way. So this is a problem because my experience and beliefs around education are going to be very different to yours and when you force through changes to the system without taking into account the perspective of parents or teachers, you are really only relying on your own unique perception of reality.
Allegedly I was quite a naturally bright child, imaginative, creative and relatively academic. I was a year ahead of myself at school, I was privately educated so on the surface it would appear a privileged existence. But something happened to me along the way, I became disengaged, I was in a school with a very narrow curriculum, there was no outlet for my passions because those subjects were not regarded as academic enough. My attitude changed, I began to hate school, I did not cope well with revision and there was no option of coursework then (yes, I did dreaded O’levels). For years I felt that I had failed at school, I now realise that school had failed me.
However, when I became a mother to 2 vibrant bright, creative, imaginative boys, I wasn’t going to let my experience influence them. I was quite optimistic that they were going into a progressive education system which embraced coursework and a broad curriculum. I was even a little envious of this opportunity presented to them. Unfortunately, my optimism was short lived, as I quickly realised I had ‘bottom table children’. I didn’t really understand this concept, how my bright and creative kids were regarded as low ability, but they were and they quickly assimilated to this label. They became aware that they were being judged against their peers and slowly the words ‘stupid’ and ‘loser’ started to enter into their vocabulary. It’s really not the school’s fault, they have to start streaming as early as possible, so that they can prepare for Sats. Apparently my children are ‘too imaginative’ for school, this impedes their academic progress. You probably can’t understand what it feels like to watch your 7 year old sob over a school report unless you’ve actually experienced it Nicky, and I doubt you have which is why your view of reality is different to mine. This led me to take my current career path and I have no doubt my kids will be fine and will get great careers they love, I’ve just got to get them through school first.
Further disappointment ensued when I discovered that they wouldn’t be given the opportunity of a broad curriculum with coursework, because education is regressing back to the very system that I found so disengaging in the first place. It is so strange to me that we live in such a diverse world, where people have such a wide range of jobs, skill-sets and learning styles that our education system is going the opposite way. As society progresses our education system regresses. We’re pushing out those who don’t fit in with the narrow remit, this can only lead to disengagement. What ‘core belief’ do you think that a child who is not academic will have at the end of this process? He will probably see himself as a failure before he’s even begun. I know that you think you’ve done us a massive favour getting rid of ‘Mickey Mouse courses’ but what if those were the only lessons a kid actually liked or excelled at? Then you’ve just taken away the only motivation she had for coming to school in the first place. Not only that, but it’s so short sighted in general, we want to inspire entrepreneurs, we need to allow children to be creative and think outside of the box, get business ideas from vocational courses. Imagine a world where children were allowed to choose a path that suited their natural ability, imagine how they would thrive, imagine a choice of baccalaureates such as an ‘Arts Baccalaureate’ ‘Vocational Baccalaureate’ ‘Business Baccalaureate’ ‘Sports Baccalaureate’ etc. where all children were allowed to excel.
You might put up the argument, that that’s what college is for, but what I’m telling you is that for many that is too late. By then they have already defined themselves by the guidelines you have set out. They are already disengaged and their core beliefs will reflect that.
As Einstein reputedly said ‘Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid’. Wouldn’t it be nice to allow our fish to swim for a change, rather than forcing them up trees all the time.