Education: Stick to Getting Better Thinking; It May Seem an Odd Question, but in These Times of Tests, More Tests and Social Exclusion and Pressures on Teachers to Sort out the Social Mess That Politicians Have Made, David Reynolds Asks What the Purpose of Education Is

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), June 26, 2003 | Go to article overview

Education: Stick to Getting Better Thinking; It May Seem an Odd Question, but in These Times of Tests, More Tests and Social Exclusion and Pressures on Teachers to Sort out the Social Mess That Politicians Have Made, David Reynolds Asks What the Purpose of Education Is


Byline: David Reynolds

IN the past it was easy to know what the purpose of the educational system was.

In a relatively slowmoving society, schools were to transmit knowledge that remained substantially unchanged over time.

Since there were strong families situated in a strong mesh of communities, the job of transmitting the values that children were to live their lives by was not the role of the school. Educational life was relatively simple.

In the last 30 or 40 years, things have become much more complex.

Partly this is because the institutions of society that used to teach the moral messages that children need to learn have lost their potency.

Families are now looser in structure, and increasingly fractured by the growth of a distinctive peer culture that is oppositional to adult values, as seen most vividly in the United States.

Communities are no longer of the Valleys variety, where a strong social identity and sense of belonging was given to young people.

Now, an increasing proportion of people live as isolated individuals.

Schools have increasingly been forced to broaden their functions to cope with all this. They have had to be concerned with pupils' home lives, their general welfare, their happiness - with everything, in fact, that their families used to do.

It is as if schools now have to put in place the foundations on which the house of learning can be constructed.

There is no doubt that these enhanced pressures have increasingly exhausted the teaching profession, superimposed as they are upon the still present need to deliver the academic results that schools are judged upon by parents and the wider society.

They are increasingly drained - by the emotional drain of caring and the intellectual demands of stimulating thinking, both running s i mu

t aneous

y.

This difficult situation for teachers is now further complicated by added demands on them in their conventional, academic role.

They used to teach facts, but now have to ensure that skills of understanding, of analysis and of interpretation are developed too.

Because knowledge is now redundant every two or three decades due to the increasing speed of change, children need ``learning to learn'' skills that can give them the chance of keeping up with the new knowledge and the new developments.

Schools are now even being tasked with developing creativity, as if they haven't enough to do already.

This loading of pressures on teachers cannot go on without further damage. Something has to give. What are the ways out of this? …

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Education: Stick to Getting Better Thinking; It May Seem an Odd Question, but in These Times of Tests, More Tests and Social Exclusion and Pressures on Teachers to Sort out the Social Mess That Politicians Have Made, David Reynolds Asks What the Purpose of Education Is
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