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Bored at school? - not surprising

“I didn’t get that.” says the pupil…”And I’m not interested,” says his or her demeanour. “It’s boring.”

The national curriculum is set up to provide a broad exposure of subjects to pupils from a young age up. The idea is that we don’t know as adults what subjects and hence professions or vocations the youngsters will head towards when they’re older. So the powers that be (Ministers, top Civil Servants) have, over many years, set up a curriculum that presents a such a range.

It sounds reasonable and not bad for a monopoly.

What’s a monopoly? According to UK law, it’s anything that controls over 25 % of a market. The state controls around 90% of the market. Economics teaches that monopolies will tend to produce a low quality product at a high price. And therein lies the problem for our youngster who isn’t interested.

The great behemoth of education in this country is now directed more or less from the centre, following guidelines that have been politically developed over the last century and more.

Once the state started directing children’s education, it had to justify what it was doing. Part of the thinking was driven by ‘creating a fit workforce’ – initially that was for basic factory work, so it was important to get the 3Rs, later it was for office work.

Children in school are effectively been primed to pay their taxes when they leave. The other part was a hangover from an older, less utilitarian philosophy: teach children to teach themselves and flourish as they see fit. That went back to the early humanists. There was also the religious element – the churches used to run many schools to teach children to become godly Christians.

Our more secular society has sidelined religion, and humanism has been muffled as a new utilitarian brand of education has formed.

If we were honest with ourselves, we would admit that the enormity of jobs and potential careers out there is so huge, that any curriculum is going to be out of date and irrelevant before it hits the press. A group of adults writing down all the jobs they know of probably wouldn't touch the surface of what the market economy has created. So much potential!

“Kids need to learn computers!” says a Minister.

Most of them do, mate. They know more than you do probably. Don’t worry about it.

“Kids need to learn a foreign language!”

Have you ever been in a language exam? A good 80% of the kids don’t even bother to work at it. What a waste of resources and so disheartening for teachers.

Something’s not right in the state of the curricula offered. And a lot of it has to do with being so exam centred.


Schools offer what they do because that’s what they’re told to do – with a bit of (usually) annoying goal shifting by vocal Ministers here and there. But the new utilitarianism is not job driven – it’s exam driven.

Once the purpose of schools was to create morally upright youth who could enter the workforce with a minimum of school and then learn their education on the job. Of course that still goes on today, but so often I hear and see the pupil turn off once I mention, ‘oh, this won’t be on the exam…’

“Why should I learn it then?”

“Because you’re human,” I reply. “It may not be part of the great political curriculum that’s been created to condition you for exams, but if you enter the world not knowing this, you’re missing something critical.”

Eyes glaze over. Too much theory. It's not related to the exam. Pupil doesn't 'need' to know.

The humanist agrees with exposing the pupil to as many subjects as practical. It wants to offer the glory of humanity from literature to technology, art to science, history to anthropology. It sought to produce a classically trained mind.

Today, that’s often forgotten – it’s all about getting the grades.

To what end? There are too many ends it could be for - so many jobs and career paths that exams, while testing subject knowledge, often leave our pupils conditioned into thinking that that is all that education is about. No, it's not. That's schooling. Schooling is about getting pieces of paper to enter the next school. It's not about excelling as a human.

Is it surprising then that the young pupil rolls the eyes and says, "I’m not interested"?

Exams are not interesting.

Article by Dr Alexander Moseley
Added Tue, 27 Jan 2015 09:57

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