Is Education In the UK Failing? by Kevin Tailor (6th form student)


Kevin Tailor:

“I feel that schools in this country serve as production lines in terms of creating people who only have qualities that help them to thrive in an individualistic, selfish and capitalist system.”

Tailor is a sixth form student interested in how the education system fails 10-16 year olds. He submitted the following article to Occupy London:

Our society is becoming ever more greedy, individualistic and uncaring as a result of how education is carried out in this country. Those may be harsh words for a system that is coveted (quite rightly) all over the world as being one of the best and most encompassing, a system which lets everybody have the right to learn and fulfill their potential regardless of race and gender. Something which is not the case still in many places. However there are several reasons why I think the UK education system (and many other western systems) is becoming increasingly flawed, especially in the face of decreasing social mobility and increasing inequality.

Firstly our system of SAT’s, GCSE’s and A-Levels are increasingly marginalising and de-valuing the arts. They stunt creativity, independent thinking and above all they do nothing to encourage the development of key social skills. All of this has come from schools coming under even more pressure to be at the top of every league table and the only way they can do this is by pushing young students into becoming exam machines. Capable only of taking in and spitting out knowledge rather than being able to truly understand it or to be able to question it to further enhance their comprehension.

In addition the pressure to get into the best secondary schools (as in the eyes of many they serve as the only way of securing a child’s future) has bred a generation of parents who see their children as robots, working them to exhaustion with tutors and extra questions, in the hope that they’ll eventually make it into an exclusive school. What this mentality does, is it generates large feelings of self accomplishment and joy amongst those who do make it into the right schools whilst also creating a sense of great failure and disappointment in those children who don’t. This is key in maintaining class distinctions and inequality. Keeping those deemed as “un-academic” from feeling that they’ll ever accomplish anything, keeps the money and power concentrated into the hands of the 1%.

Such a system, which priorities passing exams over almost everything else, enforces a “dog-eat-dog” mentality which capitalism thrives on. The sense that success only comes in the form of beating other people rather than sharing with them, hence the increasing drive to become rich at the expense of others. Children in schools should see their peers as people to become friends with, not as competitors. While competition can be healthy, it is vital to ensure opportunities are spread out to as many people as possible. Competition is only good when children realise that they will not win and obtain everything, and it is both possible and useful to learn from the things that you don’t get. The pressures – from schools, teachers, exams and parents – do none of this. It’s win – or be dropped onto the scrapheap.

My proposed solution would be to scrap all exams until the age of 17. The first phase of education should be devoted to personal development alongside creative and independent thinking. Of course skills such as numeracy and literacy will still be taught but instead, rather than being tested by pen and paper and rather than being ranked by grades, children will be encouraged to apply their knowledge in a practical sense. Such a system replicates the one used in Finland which repeatedly ranks above England in Science, English and Maths skills according to the PISA league tables. We should encourage an environment where learning is enjoyable, where curiosity is encouraged and imagination is harnessed. Test after test after test will never encourage this, it will only serve to damage one of the key purposes of education… to inspire.

By Kevin Tailor

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