Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

TES Letters

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

TES Letters

Article excerpt

Put creativity in context by embedding soft skills

"When creativity and facts are a good match" (News, 9 May) revealed that the UK is ranked sixth out of 39 in The Learning Curve report, below the premier league East Asian nations.

The key point missing in the skills v knowledge debate is context. Skills are the ability to do something well, but context is essential in determining what "doing something well" means.

If you assess problem-solving in a paper-based test you look for a limited use of it. Yet when such "soft skills" are practised regularly, in different contexts, they develop in sophistication and necessitate creativity. East Asian governments and educationalists know that creativity is vital and are trying to move away from rote learning that limits creative interpretation.

We need an education system where problem-solving isn't seen only as a box-ticking exercise. As Singapore shows us, 21st-century learning is about embedding these skills into the curriculum so that they are developed in a range of contexts.

Phil Parker

Ex-senior leader; education consultant for Student Coaching

Perhaps South Korean pupils are better at problem-solving not because they have to learn more facts but because they do not have to learn thousands of irregular spellings, such as blue, shoe and flew. The systematic spelling of Korean allows quick and easy literacy acquisition, meaning that pupils are less likely to lose their initial enthusiasm for learning. The long battle with English literacy has far more potential to demotivate.

Masha Bell

Author, Wareham, Dorset

Hit and Miss record on equality

"What Miss really means" (Feature, 9 May) could have used further historical examples of the discrimination against women in schools. For instance, the Burnham Committee first set out national pay scales for elementary school teachers in 1919, putting women's pay at 80 per cent of men's, on the grounds that men had to support a family. …

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