In my mid twenties, my first year of working as a qualified class teacher in an inner city school challenged my beliefs about education.
I found myself teaching a class of nine year olds with radically different abilities. For example I had a pupil reading Lord of the Rings whilst in the same class I had other pupils whose reading ability barely stretched beyond three letter words. Imagine an inexperienced teacher like me planning, teaching lessons and creating homework suitable for such a range! I spent many an evening attempting to stay on top of my workload whilst grappling with how I was going to support the young people to meet both their emotional and learning needs.
Experiences like this convinced me that teaching is more challenging than it needs to be, mainly due to forces teachers have limited control over. For a start, smaller class sizes and more teaching assistants would be useful, as class sizes of 30 limit the attention a teacher can give individual students. Society in general providing more support to parents in raising children would also help as unlike teachers, parents don’t often have the support network that schools can provide for addressing the needs of young people. When subjects like Art, Physical Education and PSHE (personal, social, health & economic education) are vital to young people’s development as human beings, why are such subjects not regarded as highly as Maths and Science?
I think it’s important that there is a regular collective rethinking of what the purpose of education is. Other things that could be considered include greater resources for adult education provided by employers, expanding child rearing beyond the responsibility of just parents to the local community, and having social justice education as an active component of the learning experience. Sir Ken Robinson on Creativity and Changing Educational Paradigms raises compelling points on the nature of modern approaches to education.