Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Education: what should we be teaching, and to whom?

The first episode of Radio 4's series Education Debates (last Wednesday  at 20h00, still available on their "repeats" facility) was worth listening to, even if only to learn the astonishing fact that John Humphreys, who chairs the series and has terrified a host of prevaricating politicians on the Today programme, left school at 15 because he didn't like it.

This first programme dealt with what should be taught. Sadly but perhaps inevitably most of the comment from the panel of experts consisted of predictable clich√©s,  but one splendid head of an 11 to 16 school put up a strong case for vocational education and, rightly in my view, argued that we should stop using the term as an equivalence of  "substandard" and fit only for the thick (though he didn't put it quite so bluntly.)  He pointed out that law and medicine are vocational courses, yet hold a highly respected place in the range of university courses.

Dr Anthony Seldon, head of Wellington college, agreed, and waxed lyrical about a formerly unbiddable youth at the Wellington Academy, which his public school patronises, who was transformed into an enthusiastic and co-operative pupil once he started to learn car mechanics.

However, I have looked very carefully at the Wellington College website and can find no mention of car mechanics on the curriculum  offered there.  Perhaps  Dr Seldon and his governors  regard mechanics as only for  the rude  mechanicals, and not the privileged elite.  However, my computer search skills are not very great, and I may have missed the offer.

According to an article in his mooring's Guardian  A place where vocational isn't a dirty word, the Swiss have a very balanced balanced view.  We should examine what they do and see if we can learn.

Education Debates   tomorrow night at 20h00 will discuss how whatever we think should be taught should be taught.  I shall listen with interest.

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