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Politics no image

Published on June 16th, 2012 | by Kirsty McKellar
Image © [caption id="attachment_10377" align="alignnone" width="568"] Will traditional teaching return to the classroom? © Jens Rötzsch[/caption]   This week, Education Secretary Michael Gove has proposed a revision of the National Curriculum. Government officials are claiming that children grow up not knowing basic maths and literacy skills that are required for modern business. According to the Daily Mail, businesses increasingly have to give training to employees who do not know the ‘3 R’s’ of reading, writing and arithmetic. Gove is insisting on a return to traditional values in the classroom, in order to prepare future generations for the demands of the economy. Over recent years our education system has been frequently accused of being ‘dumbed down’, which perhaps helps to explain why the Department for Education wants to ‘restore rigour’ in what primary school children are taught. The proposed changes appear to focus most heavily on maths, with primary school mathematics to include mental arithmetic and long division. Children would be expected to be able to recite their twelve times tables by the age of nine, five and six year olds to be able to count up to one hundred, and children would be expected to be able to work with numbers up to ten million by the time they finish primary school. There will also be changes to the English curriculum, and a requirement for schools to teach a foreign language to all seven to eleven year olds. Clearly these changes would require extensive teacher training and place great demands on the teaching system. Proposals have been criticised as being overly prescriptive and a challenge for an already over-crowded curriculum. Shadow Education Secretary, Stephen Twigg, points out that reforms mustn’t be based on ideology, but on what actually works in the classroom. Sweeping benchmarks clearly don’t account for differences in children’s abilities and the need for teacher discretion. It is vital that a complete overhaul of the system does not detract from the importance of one-to-one engagement with pupils and the need for teaching methods to be in tune with student’s needs, ensuring that no children fall through the net. Chris Keates, leader of the NASUWT teacher’s union, describes the changes as a mere ‘cosmetic exercise’. But with frequent accusations of slipping standards and ‘dumbing down’ it is unsurprising that people are calling for change. It goes without saying that children should be being prepared for the real world and we can’t allow standards to fall; experts are already claiming that the UK has fallen behind other countries such as the US, Hong Kong and Singapore. However it is important that teachers are able to teach, which may be through adapting lessons to suit pupils and providing help and support to those who may not meet these new targets, therefore the education system must allow for this and be flexible. Hence Andrew Pollard, who was part of the team involved in the education review, states that the proposals are ‘fatally flawed’. The Telegraph accuses Labour of stripping out ‘swathes of lesson content’ of the national curriculum during their time in power, and many people blame them for schools ‘dumbing down’ and exams getting ‘easier’. Last summer, the GCSE pass rate rose for the twenty-third year in a row, with 69.1% of entries achieving at least a C grade. Students cant seem to win; they are accused of under-performing and not living up to an apparent ‘golden age’ of education standards, yet when they show promise and achievement it is put down to exams getting easier and qualifications being meaningless. Children need to know that their education is worthwhile, and will lead to employment and success, therefore undermining their intelligence at every opportunity will do nothing to encourage them. Clearly children need to develop employability skills throughout their academic career including the 3 R’s and we must not lose sight of traditional educational values. But it is also important to remember that there will always be those who do not fit into the perfect model and a one-size-fits-all approach will not necessarily work.

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Education Overhaul – Are standards slipping?

Will traditional teaching return to the classroom? © Jens Rötzsch

 

This week, Education Secretary Michael Gove has proposed a revision of the National Curriculum. Government officials are claiming that children grow up not knowing basic maths and literacy skills that are required for modern business. According to the Daily Mail, businesses increasingly have to give training to employees who do not know the ‘3 R’s’ of reading, writing and arithmetic. Gove is insisting on a return to traditional values in the classroom, in order to prepare future generations for the demands of the economy. Over recent years our education system has been frequently accused of being ‘dumbed down’, which perhaps helps to explain why the Department for Education wants to ‘restore rigour’ in what primary school children are taught. The proposed changes appear to focus most heavily on maths, with primary school mathematics to include mental arithmetic and long division. Children would be expected to be able to recite their twelve times tables by the age of nine, five and six year olds to be able to count up to one hundred, and children would be expected to be able to work with numbers up to ten million by the time they finish primary school. There will also be changes to the English curriculum, and a requirement for schools to teach a foreign language to all seven to eleven year olds.

Clearly these changes would require extensive teacher training and place great demands on the teaching system. Proposals have been criticised as being overly prescriptive and a challenge for an already over-crowded curriculum. Shadow Education Secretary, Stephen Twigg, points out that reforms mustn’t be based on ideology, but on what actually works in the classroom. Sweeping benchmarks clearly don’t account for differences in children’s abilities and the need for teacher discretion. It is vital that a complete overhaul of the system does not detract from the importance of one-to-one engagement with pupils and the need for teaching methods to be in tune with student’s needs, ensuring that no children fall through the net.

Chris Keates, leader of the NASUWT teacher’s union, describes the changes as a mere ‘cosmetic exercise’. But with frequent accusations of slipping standards and ‘dumbing down’ it is unsurprising that people are calling for change. It goes without saying that children should be being prepared for the real world and we can’t allow standards to fall; experts are already claiming that the UK has fallen behind other countries such as the US, Hong Kong and Singapore. However it is important that teachers are able to teach, which may be through adapting lessons to suit pupils and providing help and support to those who may not meet these new targets, therefore the education system must allow for this and be flexible. Hence Andrew Pollard, who was part of the team involved in the education review, states that the proposals are ‘fatally flawed’.

The Telegraph accuses Labour of stripping out ‘swathes of lesson content’ of the national curriculum during their time in power, and many people blame them for schools ‘dumbing down’ and exams getting ‘easier’. Last summer, the GCSE pass rate rose for the twenty-third year in a row, with 69.1% of entries achieving at least a C grade. Students cant seem to win; they are accused of under-performing and not living up to an apparent ‘golden age’ of education standards, yet when they show promise and achievement it is put down to exams getting easier and qualifications being meaningless. Children need to know that their education is worthwhile, and will lead to employment and success, therefore undermining their intelligence at every opportunity will do nothing to encourage them. Clearly children need to develop employability skills throughout their academic career including the 3 R’s and we must not lose sight of traditional educational values. But it is also important to remember that there will always be those who do not fit into the perfect model and a one-size-fits-all approach will not necessarily work.

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About the Author

Kirsty McKellar

Kirsty has recently graduated from the University of Liverpool, obtaining a degree in Politics and Criminology (BA Hons). She is mostly interested in British politics, particularly the policies of the current coalition government. After completing her dissertation on the reasons for youth voter apathy with a First classification, she has developed a keen interest in young people’s relationship with and participation in politics. Kirsty has also undertaken some valuable work experience with her local MP, Esther McVey. She enjoyed the experience of working in local politics with Members of Parliament and Wirral Borough Council, helping to organise a charity event for the Big Lottery Fund. Kirsty intends to move to London this year to pursue a career in politics and social research, as it is something that she has always been passionate about.



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