Saturday, 4 January 2014

Educating who?

The subject of Michael Gove's education reforms is rightly a hot topic of debate at the moment. I remember proof-reading my friend's dissertation on such reforms last summer (she did theatre studies), and it seems to me that despite the obvious opposition posed to the government's plans, it seems nothing will affect them.

Yes, something does have to change. You only have to glance at the latest report from Pisa (Programme for International Student Assessment), to see that our education system is severely lacking in comparison to those of other countries (South Korea and Finland raking 1st + 2nd for reading, maths and science - we rank 17th, 24th, and 14th respectively).

However, as many have already voiced - much more effectively and insightfully as I ever could - there are serious contentious issues with Gove's reforms.

What concerns me most, is the way in which the Department for Education seems so intent on forming the English educative system on those of Eastern Asian countries, and, in doing so, eliminating all subjects deemed non-academic. The new English Baccalaureate will see students studying one Shakespeare play, alongside other literary texts. Yet this 'drama' section within the English qualification is supposed to replace (and therefore account for) drama within the education framework as a whole. Drama, it seems, no longer holds importance.  While to some degree I can relate to the suggestion that Drama in school is not taken seriously, in my opinion, to withdraw it from the curriculum as an entity in itself, is to destroy our culture.

As an humanities student, I am of course biased. But, as many authors, artists and performers would agree, the arts contribute such a great deal to our sense of culture. Not to mention the ways in which drama, as a subject, enables students to develop - to address fears of public-speaking, to develop social skills, as well as analytic and interpretative capabilities.

It's all well and good to base our educational system on other countries, but in my opinion, that shouldn't be the point. Yes, our education system is flawed. Yet the government's plans seem to be withdrawing the only good thing about it - its endeavour to give students a rounded, varied, and thought-provoking education. What the government seems to forget, is that children need to be engaged by school, as much as they are taught. School, in my opinion, is about preparing a child for their future - whatever that may be. By focusing solely on the 'academic' aspect of schooling, the new regime fails students.

Having spent time working within the French education system as a language assistant for the British Council, I wholeheartedly believe that a turning away from creativity within the educational sphere, is a regression of the greatest kind. I frequently speak with French students who are amazed to learn that the English school system offers classes in cookery, textiles and technologies through which the learning experience is more well-rounded one. It is these features of the UK school system which need to be bettered and encouraged, not eliminated.

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