The Apprentice Final 2011 – What does this say about our education system?

TV’s brightest and best but they know next to nothing

So The Apprentice is now finally over and Tom is the winner.  This is the candidate, along with fellow competitor Helen who in the previous fast food task thought that Byron wrote at the same time as Shakespeare and that Christopher Columbus was British and discovered the potato!  The other two candidates were no better.  They named their Mexican Restaurant Caraca’s.  This would have been an apt name if the restaurant in fact was Venezuelan and not Mexican.

I came across this article by Virginia Blackburn, Daily Express Columnist who was obviously as shocked as me at the total lack of the candidates’ knowledge of history, geography and culture.  As a teacher, I was very interested to read her comments about the “debasing of this country’s education system”

http://www.express.co.uk/ourcomments/view/258876/Virginia-Blackburn

Blackburn states that perhaps it would be better if we had an education system where the academic elite are filtered into a separate system so they are not held back by less academic and those who disrupt learning in class.  She believes we can then tailor the teaching and learning to suit all.  Firstly, society would not tolerate this and secondly the government would never fund it. Also, that is exactly what the Curriculum for Excellence in Scotland is meant to do.

It is a well known fact that individuals with a disposable income have the choice to employ tutors or send their children to private school if they feel this would help but those without such financial means can’t.  She also states that poor parenting is adding to our problems in schools.  She uses personal experience saying that our society is too child-centric where we let them set their own agenda and that schools bow to the pressure and bullying tactics of parents, stating that this attitude means that children disrupt classes, attack teachers and sue the school over trivial matters, such as being able to wear corn rows (a hairstyle).

However, we have laws that mean schools must involve parents in their child’s education and that children have a voice too.  It is difficult for schools to find a happy medium.  I have had parents demand that I move their child to the ‘top reading group’ or skip a whole section of reading books to push them on.  The child in question was a good technical reader but had poor comprehension skills and a distinct lack of understanding regarding what they were reading.  I tested the child to back up my professional judgement but despite this the Head Teacher demanded I move the child anyway.  I stuck to my guns because I wanted to do what was best for the child and gave the parents advice on how  they could support their child’s reading at home.  I was told by the parents that “they didn’t have time to read with them and that was what school was for”.

The writer points out that life is competitive and children should learn skills they need and told why they need to learn them.  This is an excellent point.  I am always totally honest with my classes and explain why they need to learn certain skills or about certain things, because without a purpose they see no point in it whatsoever.  Also they need to learn that they may not enjoy everything school has to offer but they owe it to themselves to try their very best at everything. The class teacher should be adapting tasks to suit all the children in the class and teaching the necessary skills.  One child in my P6 class used to play up every time I introduced a new maths concept basically because he perceived himself to be the ‘cool kid’ and did not want to look stupid or unintelligent to his class mates.  I had to come up with strategies to counteract this or he would literally wreck the classroom.  As all teachers know, some children have learning difficulties they have to overcome such as retention and it’s the teacher’s job to work with the child to do this.  Due to budget cuts, larger class sizes and the growing array of learning difficulties children have, this is extremely difficult for teachers.

An important point in the article is that despite large class sizes in Hong Kong discipline problems are zero.  Disruptive children are excluded immediately and their families feel deep shame with the result being such problems are extremely rare.  Over the years I have become acutely aware of the escalating behaviour problems within schools.  I am currently doing supply teaching in the primary sector for two local authorities.  Recently I have been in several schools where I have had to work hard to control behaviour which has seriously affected the teaching and learning.  I had a class of 13 children and could not believe the level of poor and disruptive behaviour from 8 of the children.  In addition, their skill levels for maths and English made me weep.  This is simply not good enough for our future generation and I worry about their future.

I don’t know what the answer is but I do know that the wheels of education turn extremely slowly.

The Curriculum of Excellence was born in 2004 with working groups and lots of excitement and discussion.  It is now 2011 and primary schools are struggling with some aspects of it and it is just taking off in our high schools with no one any the wiser on how the secondary exam system will work.

Thank you to our guest blogger, Angela Mitchell, one of our qualified teachers who runs the Kip McGrath Cambuslang/Burnside Tuition Centre .  If you would like to comment, please feel free to do so below.

Cambuslang Tutors, Angela MitchellFollow Kip McGrath Education Centres Cambuslang on Facebook.

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One comment on “The Apprentice Final 2011 – What does this say about our education system?

  1. I also was totally gobsmacked at the total lack of the most basic of knowledge shown by the finalists. I asked my daughter (aged 9) who Christopher Columbas was. She was able to tell me exactly who he was because they had done a school project last year. When I asked her who brought the potato to the UK, she started quoting an episode from Scooby Doo and thought it was someone from Ireland!! I think a few history lessons are in order this summer!!

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