After writing my article What is wrong with UK education. And how to fix it, I have been engaged on social media with some interesting views. Basically the progressives and social engineering lefties hate it. The pragmatics who just want the best for our children love it. It is very “marmite”. So I thought that I would expand on it.
Firstly and most important thing to understand is what the education system is for. Many in education and politics don’t understand this. It is to prepare children for the needs of the society that they will live in. Obviously most of this job is done by their family and peers. Education must give children the extra skills and knowledge beyond this.
One of my observations, from a long and active life, is that there is far too much emphasis in our society on academia and vastly too much emphasis on the academia of the “arts”. Something that was just mass entertainment 100, 200, 300 etc years ago is now seen as a subject for endless, futile debate. Many thousands of “academics” have thought far more about Jane Austen’s novels than she did herself. The vast majority of people who succeed in life, who have high life quality and success, do not owe it to academia.
Our state should invest the same resources into every child regardless of their academic prowess. Parents can invest more if they feel like it. The education system needs to look at a wide range of aptitudes and cater for them. To get the best out of people so they contribute the most to society. 11+ should not be an academic pass/fail, it should be an investigation into every child’s aptitudes so that these can be nurtured to most benefit society.
So here are just some of the different aptitudes that we need to understand and make the most of:
True academic. Someone who can absorb a vast amount of information and who has the intellectual horsepower and creativity to take it where nobody has gone before. These people are very rare.
True artist. Turner, Monet, Rubens, Shakespeare, Kipling, Simon Russell Beale. These people are incredibly rare. Most people in the arts, even famous ones, have no talent. Our society is driven by marketing and celebrity instead.
Memory box. At school there was a guy who had memorised the whole British Rail system and every engine on it. Academically he was average for a Grammar School. Likewise we see people on Eggheads, Mastermind etc who are just knowledge sponges.
Practical skills. This seems to be god given gift, most of us are all thumbs. My brother, at 15, was rebuilding motorcycle engines without a manual, at 18 rebuilding factory sealed gearboxes that were supposedly not rebuildable, now he can build a house, with all the trades, to a far higher standard than any building company. We all know someone like this.
Entrepreneurship. The people I have seen make money in life owe very little of it to their schooling. Some people understand that capitalism is all about looking after customers. That risks, investment and hard work bring their rewards. These are the most important people in our society because they make everything else possible. From the owner of your corner shop to Richard Branson they provide the goods and services that we want. And they create the wealth that pays for everything else.
Caring, empathy, social skills. These are immensely important because we live in a society. Mostly they are developed by family and peers, not by teachers. But people who are exceptional in these areas are of great value to society in a whole range of jobs. They should be nurtured to realise this value.
Maths. Yes, education must make us all good at this. But some children are doing differential calculus at 12 years old just for fun. They may have no other skills whatsoever. You will find a lot of these people in the City of London and GCHQ.
Creativity. Not artists but people who are capable of original thinking. Who come from left field. These people are immensely important for human advancement. In politics, in marketing, in creating goods and services. Too often this aptitude is confused with art, which is just plain silly.
Now look at the above (incomplete) list and ask yourself a question. Which of these does our education system recognise, understand and get the best out of? Yes, you got it, our education system fails most people in most areas of their ability. This is why 100% competence at maths and English in school leavers is so important. Because then, at least, people can go off and make the most of their own talents.