What Should Children Be Learning At School - 26th May 2019 Written By Joel Senior, Trainee Secondary School Teacher This article has been written to give an impactful understanding of why the school system is outdated, unimpactful, and why children now are not being given the necessary tools to succeed later in life. While the society we live in today is changing at an increasingly rapid pace, the foundations of education have not changed much since the start of the industrial revolution, roughly 200 years ago now. For instance, to work in the industrial sector requires a regimented personality designed to follow orders, a cohesive structure, and very few creative ideas to complete the work at hand. Children go to school to be told what to do, to follow instructions, to work at the same pace as everyone else, to have strict timing structure throughout the day, to absorb information and remember it all until a final series of test papers judge how much you’ve remembered, not how you can think or perform as an individual. Children are still being prepared in schools for work in the industrial environment, a field of work which is nowhere near as prominent in today’s society. A lot of workplaces now require critical thinking, creative approaches to solutions, and good communication skills. The largest industries in the UK currently are financial and banking, information technology, healthcare, logistics, and education. The 3 C’s (critical, creative, communication) are essential tools to become successful in these work environments, so why are they being overlooked so much in schools? The arts in school nowadays have recently come under scrutiny, which for me, as a music teacher, is quite disheartening. But taking emotions out of it, the arts are great ways to learn the 3 C’s mentioned earlier. The arts is a very broad subject which includes elements such as drama, music, art, dance, media studies, and I’m sure many more. These subjects all promote critical thinking in a way which encourages students to form their own opinions of different works in the respective fields, to analyse controversial topics and have a say on why they may or not be impactful in society then and now, and to have independent thoughts on others work. Creativity is inevitable in the arts, honing in on your own ideas and producing a piece of work which is unlike no-one else’s. To provide a sense of individuality and to develop potential and talent. Communication comes where children have the chance to work together, to fuse a range of ideas into a single performance or study, and giving feedback to others. These skills are not exclusive to the arts though. Core subjects like Maths, English, Science, Geography, Languages, History (the Ebacc subjects which will be discussed later) can develop to become more accustoming to learning about individual thought as opposed to facts and figures. For instance, maths has a huge focus on learning algebraic formulas, area and perimeter, transformation, reflection, and plotting graphs, if Mary has 8 apples and Tom has 5, when will the train from London arrive in Manchester. All jokes aside, I am writing whilst looking through a year 11 mock GCSE exam paper, and all of the questions require one single answer and whether it is right or wrong, and if you use the wrong method to get to that answer then you are losing marks. This is not helpful for each individual student, but more so for the collective achievement of the school. Mathematics should promote different solutions to get to the same result. I understand that there are some methods that work better or worse, but to teach every student the same method is not viable, since as we know each individual learns in different ways. To offer different solutions and to encourage students to think openly about how they would reach these solutions, seems much more inspiring. Any maths teachers reading this, please feel free to comment and let me know if I am talking nonsense. Now for English, this subject seems to already encourage free thinking and individuality, which of course is fantastic. However, it is a subject where I have seen more students than ever get tired of and lose interest quickly. Reading and writing is essential to any work profession I can think of, so how can we inspire children more to get involved? Learning about Shakespearean plays in nonsensical and boring and highly outdated. Current literature with a good plot, interesting characters, and relevant today would be much more sensible. A few examples would be 1984 by George Orwell, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, and To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Much like I do with my music lessons, I introduce modern music and technology into the classroom since it is more relatable to this generation. Again, any English teachers reading this and want to have a discussion, leave me a comment. Science, a world of discovery, wonder, and imagination. Or, memorising chemical formulas… Science perhaps offers the most potential for critical thinking and promoting creative ideas. I am all for learning about the basics of physics and how the forces of earth are apparent, the biology of humans and animals, and how different chemicals can react to one-another, but there is a big hole in the subject which is causing students to lose interest quickly. From my own observations in various schools, behaviour in science lessons is much worse than in any other, simply because the content of the lesson is either too boring or too complicated. There are too many facts involved with science which makes the subject both boring and complicated, where as I said before there is so much potential for critical thinking. Instead of asking what the temperature of the sun is, ask more open questions like what would happen if the earth lost its gravity for the day? This is just an example, I’m sure more qualified scientologists could do better, but the idea is to educate children about the universe and provide questions to get them thinking about how this force of nature could impact us in different ways. This would in turn help students to think for themselves and to get creative with their responses, further developing their own understanding and why some of their answers are either completely illogical or downright brilliant. This article is already too long, so if anyone is interested in this topic them let me know I can offer some more of my thoughts I’m going to move onto the English Baccalaureate certificate ( Ebacc for short). This is a measurement for schools based on performance in the subject I mentioned earlier; English, Science, Maths, Geography or History, and a Modern Foreign Language. The way that all of these subjects are being taught offer very little to the 3 C’s, which is having a hand in cutting arts classes and discouraging schools to promote arts as a GCSE option. The Ebacc was introduced in 2012 by Michael Gove as a way of seeing which schools would rank higher based on qualifications in these subjects. Students are further being secluded from their individual development by taking subjects just for the certificate as opposed to nurturing their own talents and fulfilling their own desires. I fell victim to this trap during my GCSE years and as a result, I failed to study the subjects that were more desirable to me and I even failed to pass MFL, so didn’t even get the certificate. This system is completely bogus and is not helping anything other than a the school’s ego. It is proof that some schools care only about their own progression than seeing their students fulfil their own destiny and to pursue a field that they could potentially do great in. If schools were run more like schools as opposed to businesses, then I think we might see a progression in UK education. The Ebacc should be scrapped and I sincerely hope that Damien Hinds acts accordingly. If you are reading this last paragraph, then I appreciate you taking the time to listen to my thoughts. I am currently a trainee teacher at a secondary school in the district of Surrey, so of course I am still learning. This article was just to offer some of my ideas of how the educational system could evolve to be more relevant to today’s society, and how individuality and nurturing the individual is a more effective way of seeing success in the future. I know I went off on a tangent during the middle section, but I hope to offer some more ideas that swirl around this playground of a brain that I have, so watch this space! Joel.