Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Keep 'em busy, or Issue a ticket

I always enjoy combinations of stories.  This time it concerns discipline.  In Austin Texas it has been deemed too strict, even racially biassed.  Shira Fishman, by contrast, keeps students busy from the moment they enter her geometry class, thus avoiding bouts of defiance or disruption.  I recognise the practical value of each approach: strict discipline removes the expression of distractions, and has driven up standards in many schools; by keeping students busy likewise, teachers can avoid the tedium, or boredom that sometimes leads to misbehaviour.  As a perennial dreamer, however, one who preferred to be off-task in school, I wonder if we are still trying to shoe-horn students into an unwanted place.  Maybe it is the system that is wrong, not the students' failure to go along with it at all times.

Drama, Tragedy or Necessity

Patrice Baldwin bemoans the threat to Drama in the British Curriculum.  As an ex-Drama teacher I have some sympathy for her argument; Drama is an exciting way to teach and learn.  At the same time, however, my feeling is that the British curriculum is too diverse, students are encouraged to learn subjects in isolation.  My preference would be to find overlaps, embedding drama, media, ict, even art and music, into a cohesive programme of study.  Students can specialize later.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

New Exam System for Britain

Ben Morse puts up a strong argument against the proposed changes to the exam system.  He says that the changes are classist, ill thought-out and not fit for purpose.  Whilst I cannot agree with him on many points, I do not see classics as classist, I like his comments on the choice of title, English Baccalaureate.  He criticises this French title on the grounds that it is French and already a recognised qualification.  He suggests something English instead, English Middle Certificate for example.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Raising the bar for exams

The joke above, borrowed from The Guardian, comes at a time when Borris Johnson is also reported for voicing his support for Grammar Schools.  I can see the arguments against each, why shouldn't all children have the same opportunities and the same challenges.  At the same time our refusal to acknowledge that some children are better logico-linguists than others seems unfair.  I am reminded as I write of my only outing playing GAA for a local team.  I was awful, and the Manager never invited me back.  The same should be said for academia, or the 100 metres.  Usain Bolt would not be challenged to compete if all entrants to a 100 metre race were entitled to a gold medal.  Similarly young academics will not be challenged to learn if the bar to success is set too low.  Our education system must be designed to serve all.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Four Day School Week

I like this one.  Wayland, Iowa are going for a four-day school week.  The intention is that the additional day will allow for real-world experience.  This seems very sensible, and I would add longer school holidays to the same ambition.  We spend too much time in school teaching pupils to think for themselves; thinking for yourself is what you do when you are not at school.

Making the best standard

Anna Bailey offers an interesting suggestion as she considers the quality of Charter Schools in the US.  She suggests indeed that when we discover what makes a good school we should make that standard throughout.  The benefits, she proposes, is that all children will then get the same education.  I like it, however unfashionable.