Our kids in England have to go to school and unlike many other places in the World, not only are there schools here, but education is free (up to the age of eighteen anyway!). Like all things that come free, education is a facility that is scantily appreciated by many parents, abused, ignored, and disregarded by millions rather than taken advantage of. Go to the poorer countries (say Indonesia) and you will find young adults (not just children) who would give their eyeteeth to go to a place of learning – education is a passport to a decent job there you see (and that might simply mean working in a shop in a up-market tourist Mall, or even being a typist in an office); people just can’t do it though as it costs a lot, a shed load of money – which they have no prospect of ever gathering.
Education in UK is consequently going down the pan – as demonstrated by higher education where the global reputation of our universities is dropping like a stone (Universities World Reputation Rankings 2014†).
What is going wrong here then, as we are supposed to be an intelligent and advanced nation, even if a relatively small one? For a start our whole educational system is in turmoil with repetitive changing & fiddling by our governments – and it is still going on big time (shake-ups galore)! Large numbers of our students in state schools are taught simply to pass exams and not to really care about their subject – teachers no longer try to inspire their charges, they simply coach them in how to get top marks, so their school gets a good showing in the national league tables – and that particularly applies to so called “good schools” doesn’t it?. Don’t blame individual teachers though, it is simply the unacceptable system they have to work in and the constraints place upon them!
The problems start at the beginning with the first tranche of educational qualifications – GCSEs. Children are encouraged by all and sundry (schools and parents alike) to study non-rigorous non-academic subjects that fill their time, present low pressure, minimum effort, and can provide a so-called ‘qualification’ – notwithstanding that it is pretty useless one in the modern world, and is meaningless to prospective employers. Our children are denied the big picture of their long-term future needs. It has been extensively recognised in England that the modern complicated world necessitates that kids go-on to higher education after school – university or specialist college – or advanced industrial training (like say higher apprenticeships). However, at GCSE we don’t bother to equip them for these future needs in an increasing hi-tec world. Times have never been more difficult to climb the cliff face of further education and obtaining fulfilling employment have they?
The powers that be have decreed that all students must study (but not necessarily pass!) English and Mathematics at GCSE – in past times many of them too quickly ducked out from these two essential study areas, so that was a valuable decision wasn’t it?. Science was also included some seven years ago, but however they missed out big time by not stipulating at least two of the triple SCIENCEs, which is the third element in an essential foundation on which to build a future in such a highly industrialised and technological global world in the 21st century. Students can go instead for ‘Core Science’ (all three subjects integrated) basically studied at a pitifully basic level inappropriate for world standard requirements.
Science is more than just learning facts; no, it is about, in particular, developing curiosity, challenging and questioning concepts, relying on evidence based judgements, testing ideas and not just accepting them, learning to make decisions – these are all attributes that cross relate to many aspects of contemporary life and work (even outside the world of engineering & science itself).
Sadly and worryingly, our youngsters are avoiding the challenge of studying, understanding, and performing in the big individual sciences (physics, chemistry, and biology ) deemed as ‘unpopular’, in favour of the optional trendy ‘enjoyable’ easy copout topics – like media studies, business administration, textile design, psychology, arts including dance, sociology, et al (all interesting topics and courses no doubt, but irrelevant, except for the few, in the real world of today and ones that can consign pupils to the bottom of the pile). [Note despite some having it otherwise, geography is not a true science; no it is simply one of the humanities!].Performance levels of pupils in science is falling disturbingly
Even supposedly top secondary schools, despite some calling themselves Science colleges, fail to warn their charges of the restrictions resulting from heading up a shortcut side road and ignoring top science at GCSE. Your teenager might well dream of their future exciting career, say as a computer game designer – dream on if major science has been left behind! Or perhaps the animal lovers daydream of being a vet, or television drama buffs a forensic scientist, or mankind carers a doctor or a nurse, or the adventurist an airline pilot, or a Tomorrows World or Gadgets addict an inventor, or a wildlife preserver a naturalist – all delusions without proper science of course. Many many work sectors desired by the majority of the young, require science – which the bulk of school kids have dropped withoutent qualifications. It is a sad society we live in isn’t it – dreams of the young unnecessarily smashed to smithereens by lack of foresight and miserably misplaced encouragement by us adults.
[GCSEs have never been so important, so ask yourself what your offspring is studying at GCSE and where will they land up as a consequence?]
†Covered in an earlier post