Daniel* more than just enjoys his education – he loves it! His mum doesn’t have to drag him out of bed on a morning, she doesn’t have to threaten or bribe him. She gently wakes him, then pops off to work, knowing that he’ll get himself safely there. Too perfect to be true?
This wasn’t the case for the first 14 years of his education. Far from it! He never liked school, always made excuses trying to get a day off here and there, lied about how much homework he had and how much trouble he was in. That sounds more like it!
So what’s changed?
He’s left school and started college.
Despite being academically intelligent, Daniel preferred practical subjects. His favourite subject at school was design technology. As he was an A* student, he was forced to drop DT and take a modern foreign language as one of his “choices” even though he hated MFL. He was also forced to “choose” between history or geography, despite wanting to take drama. His only pleasure was PE, one lesson per week. Imagine hating 24 out of 25 lessons! This is reality for far too many children now. Their Year 9 “Options” are actually Year 9 “Directions” and not necessarily the right directions!
Now Daniel’s left school, he’s training to be a car mechanic. NOW he’s happy. None of the subjects he was forced to take were of any use to get him on his Mechanic’s course and he never wants to study for a degree because education is forever tarnished for him. He’s not the only one…
At Secondary School, students are being pushed down an ever-narrowing academic route, especially since the introduction of the English Baccalaureate. Some schools are in such a panic about OFSTED grading them “Inadequate” and forcing a government academy on them, that they are panic cramming more and more English, maths and science down unwilling throats and removing creative subjects such as art, drama and music.
Have we forgotten “less is more”? Have we forgotten that everyone excels in things they enjoy and enjoy things in which they excel? We need to broaden the curriculum not narrow it. Our children do NOT need a degree in an academic subject to be successful!!!
First of all, define success! Success is NOT money in the bank. Success is happiness. Who are the happiest people? Hairdressers, plumbers and interior decorators are among the top ranking most happy people. Not doctors, head teachers or bank managers.
The solution is simple – ban the Baccalaureate! If a student wishes to take maths, English, science, MFL and history or geography, that’s up to them. But it should be their choice to take it just as much as it should be another students’ choice not to take it. It is criminal that so many students’ happiness is cast aside for some crack-pot idea a random politician once dreamed up just to show that he’d done something!
What if the next politician comes along and creates the Arts Baccalaureate? Every student must take GCSEs in art, music, drama, dance and photography. People would be disgusted:
“But my child wants to be a doctor, he can’t be a doctor if he’s not allowed to choose Biology!”
“I’m terribly sorry (not sorry), but I have invented the Arts Baccalaureate and you simply must comply.”
If we are living in a free country, why are our students not free to make their own choices in what they study? Why are schools not free to offer the courses that they know their students want?
No wonder there is a teenage mental-health crisis. As Einstein famously said, “If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid!”
There are many different types of intelligence. The main ones are emotional, musical, verbal/linguistic, logic/mathematical, kinaesthetic/body, interpersonal, intrapersonal. In the past students with great athletic ability have been proud of their skills but now their triumph is overshadowed if they cannot also excel in English. Likewise, students who can play the most beautiful music, have this success over-shadowed if they cannot show top results in maths. This has to stop. Students’ successes should be celebrated and they should be encouraged to pursue the subjects and careers that suit them as an individual. Let them be who they want to be, not who one grey faceless politician says they should be.
There’s a popular hashtag #letourkidsbekids which fights against excessive testing and homework. It might not be as catchy, but I propose the hashtag #letourkidsgrowintohappyadults!
You want world peace? Fill the world with happy people!