Last Word: Education system needs an overhaul
AS children return to school after the summer break, the pressure for staff and pupils to meet targets is already on, writes Louise McEvoy. It begins as soon as children start primary school and it is relentless until they leave secondary school. Pupils h
AS children return to school after the summer break, the pressure for staff and pupils to meet targets is already on, writes Louise McEvoy.
It begins as soon as children start primary school and it is relentless until they leave secondary school.
Pupils hit the ground running and don't have the chance to find themselves and discover what they like. They are given no breathing space at all. They have so many things to do at once, without the time to be able to do any of them properly.
Youngsters sit too many exams. Apart from anything else, testing too often - when information is fresh in pupils' minds - does not give a true picture of children's progress.
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The education system is now mechanical and dull, with students over-examined and syllabuses too rigid.
I have a number of friends who are teachers and, when the GCSE and A level results came out last month, I asked one why it is that the exam results nationally have been improving year-on-year. She said it is because teachers have become more and more adept at teaching specifically for exams. If this is the case, it stands to reason that the scope of teaching within subjects has narrowed, as teachers are concentrating on course specifications.
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Pupils are drilled to take exams, in what are essentially boot camps. This target-driven system is robbing youngsters of a balanced education, with too much time spent testing and not enough time spent teaching.
It is to the detriment of learning life skills. For instance, the development of social skills as a young person is vital, and the emphasis now placed on studying will no doubt ultimately lead to youngsters being less socially equipped to secure the jobs they desire.
Sitting so many exams is unnecessary, and causes unnecessary stress.
Yes, children of course need to be monitored and their progress assessed, but the system needs to be simplified and there needs to be a significant reduction in external examinations, with teachers being trusted to do more marking within schools.
Churning pupils through an educational sausage machine and pigeon-holing them is failing spectacularly to inspire their imaginations, and it even threatens the mental and physical health of a number. Pupils, even at primary school, are suffering from stress, anxiety and depression as a result of this approach.
Students are taught to focus on the end and not the means, which will inevitably lead to dissatisfaction and a feeling of failure for some. The pressure on young people to study so relentlessly is risking creating a generation who find it difficult to be content.
There needs to be an overhaul of the education system, and the creation of a broader system that enables young people to progress at their own pace and emerge with a more rounded education.