It seems that the English education system does not work in the way that many think it should and, despite the many changes that have been made over the years, it is still not perfect. And this certainly brings the question, can any system be perfect? Won’t there always be some sort of flaw?
Over the past decade the English education system has changed dramatically. Levels of freedom in the curriculum have declined as there are more and more specific things which the authorities feel that children should learn.
There is less time for play, for imaginative thought, for developing your own ideas and experiences. Teachers and children cannot experiment as much in the way that they interact, teach and learn. It seems, in some ways, as if society has retreated from permitting freedom of expression and has reverted to methods which appear to be turning twenty-first century children into robots.
However, the more concerning area of the education system is found when examining the way that GCSEs and A-Levels are taught.
Students are required to learn information for an exam; they are only expected to know the information that they may be questioned on and to be able to apply the knowledge in a very specific way to suit the exam question. The writing style that students employ does not value personal interpretations, innovative ideas or original style as it needs to be directed at the examiner and what they want to, or expect to, read.
As soon as students enter university, this way of learning and writing disappears; all the things that GCSEs and A-Levels did not cater for are now necessary. Originality, strong views, alternative interpretations are all encouraged. This is great for building up a range of personalities and characters which society needs to be dynamic and to function well yet it can make students feel lost and very uncertain.
All that they knew has been overturned.
There are no longer model answers, no set ways to write an answer to exam or essay questions and no clear direction of how to get the knowledge in order to answer the question. This wonderful freedom and independence is very different, unnerving even, and that is mainly down to the chasm between the general education system and the expectations of universities.
This chasm that is emerging between school and university education is concerning for many university lecturers as it is making their job much harder; students are not prepared for the expectations and challenges of university and hence, they struggle and it takes longer to learn because there is now more to learn before they are ready for the university level of learning.
The culture of school does not allow for mistakes and can be seen to condemn them as the multiple attempts at coursework and re-sits of exams highlight. This can make people more likely to become perfectionists and suffer from anxiety. Is it fair to say that it is our current culture which is making these issues worse? Can we lessen these problems by making some simple changes to our attitudes and institutions?
Such a culture does not acknowledge the fact that mistakes are beneficial, that we can learn from them to become better people and to have better strategies for coping with the stresses of life. Spoon feeding is not practical for preparing our children to enter the wider world where they will have to work and live independent, moral and democratic lives.
In previous years, the steps of learning to become more independent and progress to full-time academia were gradual yet this route of progress no longer exists. We need to rebuild wider and sturdier bridges to bring this gradual process of development and learning back so that students at school and college are better equipped for university and the world of work.
At the moment, there are many reforms being made within the education system, but are they the right reforms?
Are they helping to create better people? Do they care about personal development and originality rather than achieving good grades and a good career?
Such material things will only get us money, status and reputation which brings forth a further question: where should our values lie? Are they in ourselves, our personalities and our characters, or in our achievements?
In my opinion, a balance between the two is important and necessary. Although, perhaps we need to take the emphasis away from achievement and conformity and move towards a system which focuses on originality and freedom in thought and in teaching.
Hopefully then transition through education will be smoother and we can all feel accepted and worthy, no matter what.