My problems with the British education system

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I have a friend.

She is incredibly business-minded and is constantly thinking up new entrepreneurial ideas. Currently, the dream is a face-mask company that creates products suitable for the customer’s skin type. She is prepared to hand-craft each individual serum to make her vision a reality. Basically, she’s a genius who, in my opinion, is going to be CEO of the UK’s fastest growing business within the next ten years. But at school, 6 lessons a day, 6 days a week she does nothing but doodle. Flowers with faces, animals in anarchy, portraits of people…

I have a friend.

His drive and dedication blows my mind as he juggles exams, schoolwork, sport and a social life without losing sight of his goals and aspirations. He has already singlehandedly filmed, directed and produced multiple short films which have been shown at film festivals. In short, movies are his life. If he isn’t one day held in the same esteem as Steven Spielberg and Stanley Kubrick, I’d be incredulous. But, he too resorts to doodles in distress after teachers shoot down his ideas and quash his theories without a second thought.

So why are the brightest minds of the next generation trapped in a vicious cycle revolving around petty art?

  1. The system supresses individual thought and refuses to be challenged

If you are currently at school or remember being at school, you may have noticed some issues relating to the system’s condescending and patronising nature. Of course, all schools vary so these characteristics may be more or less pronounced depending on your institute. However, personally, I have witnessed some level of prejudice in all three schools I have attended.

A core issue is that some teachers have too much pride.

Growing up, we are taught to respect adults and rightly so. However, even adults get things wrong sometimes and I often feel teachers refuse to acknowledge their mistakes.

On a primary school level, children are inquisitive and often ask potentially risky questions without realising it. Seemingly innocent queries such as, “Why doesn’t Jane come to school anymore?” may seem too difficult to explain and cause the adult to feel uncomfortable. In response, a teacher may take the easy option and simply shut the child down. In the long term though, this approach is toxic as slowly but surely the system supresses individual thought and prevents a child from expressing their thoughts and opinions.

Moving to GCSE level many students are forced to do subjects that they don’t see the point in or don’t enjoy such as English or Maths. This leads to frustrations such as, “How am I ever going to grasp 16 poems, two plays and a novel?!” or “When am I ever going to need the COSINE rule?!” These doubts and irritations are only ever brushed aside when expressed to teachers who seem unwilling to explain or even acknowledge the truth in many of these accusations.

At A-level standard, a whole new issue arises. Some students overtake professors or examiners academically and, as a result, become misinterpreted. Major issues have arisen throughout time where a student has been wrongly marked down as the examiner cannot keep up with the extreme intellectual speed a student may be displaying. This may highlight another issue of pride as some adults refuse to consider that someone younger than them may be more academically advanced than themselves. Disastrously, this can lead to an extreme loss of confidence and may urge a student to conform to more widely accepted forms of academia. Therefore, their individual thinking is snuffed out, virtually into non-existence.

What consequences will this have in the future? What consequences has this already had? Have people been too afraid of the same embarrassment and refusal they experienced in school to put their potentially life-changing ideas out there? Going forward, will schools continue to supress individual thinking past the point of no return? Will this mean stalemate for the world’s progression? Or contrastingly, is the human mind strong enough to prevail through the animosity and pursue its thoughts no matter what? We will find out in the comments…

  • Students are BORED

My entrepreneurial friend is BORED. My filmmaker friend is BORED.

Often schools teach in a way that is not engaging, inspiring or even interesting. When will Britain realise that copying off the board is not the only way of learning? Even watching dated black-and-white films once a term does not mean the class is any more engaged.

Going forward, we need a new breed of teachers; teachers that switch up learning styles.

Class presentations, group research and power points, hot-seating, plays or sketches amongst other techniques are examples of engaging activities which encourage kinetic (active) learning and from what I have observed, inspire a positive reaction from students both physically and mentally.

Some active-learning activities I would suggest include:

  • Information treasure hunts around school
  • Movie projects focused on a topic or idea
  • Comic strip creations to explain a story or sequence

No doubt we all have ideas of new and exciting teaching techniques. If you are currently at school or were back at school, what keeps or would have kept you engaged?

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But, enough of my opinion. It’s yours that really matters.

What issues do you have with the British education system or for that matter, your own country’s education system? Do you have any issues at all? Can we learn from different countries’ education systems? I’d love to hear any thoughts you have.

So, let’s get talking!