Tips &

Tips &

Is our education system fit for purpose?

September 2023
Janthea Brigden
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I home schooled my daughter for two years and she gained a first at university. I took my youngest out of school in year 10 and combined college with home education - he works as a software developer earning more than I do! My middle child went through the system, gained all the traditional school qualifications, and yet he is an actor now, so none of his education is relevant!

What is the problem with our education system? 

We hear about children needing to be ‘school ready’, but surely schools should be child ready?  

So much individual potential is currently being missed and I constantly hear about children who are being failed by the education system as they don’t necessarily fit into an academic template. 

The world has changed so much since our modern day education system was developed in the late 1800s, and even since the the national curriculum was introduced in the late 1980s. The way that society and employment has changed even in the past 10 years makes the way that we educate our children less and less relevant to the world that they are going to live in. 

Anxiety and other mental health issues  in children are higher than ever before, with one in six children experiencing a mental health condition before the age of 16. 

Is our education system really preparing our children for the challenges of our ever-changing world? 

A child-led learning approach 

 In Early Years education, the focus is on child-led learning - so an early educator looks for the child’s interest and builds upon them.  If a child loves playing with tractors, then counting, stories, colours, investigation and exploration can all involve tractors. 

This child-led practice allows the brain to relax and absorb learning, which occurs naturally through discovery and exploration. As soon as a child hits year one, children have to follow a more rigid curriculum with constant testing. This more rigid learning approach builds anxiety and often shuts down learning. 

Finding a child’s passion and using education around that passion is the way forward in my opinion. If a child is showing an interest or passion then encouraging and building on this would be more impactful than forcing them to learn something they have no interest in. 

The current system of classing children by date of manufacture is antiquated. The system was devised in the Victoria factory era and may well have worked then, but not anymore! 

Our current education system currently prioritises academic subjects but doesn’t necessarily set people up for the jobs that they’ll end up doing. So many young adults are leaving university with no real world job experience at all and needing to do low paid internships or apprenticeships to get into their chosen profession.

What is the point of remembering how to do trigonometry but not having any practical skills when it comes to starting a job? 

Age-dependent learning

The way that we learn and absorb information changes with age, so shouldn’t the way we are taught change with it? 

For example, according to research by the University of Nevada, the cognitive ability of older teenagers increases if they start learning later in the morning - 11am or even midday. Studies show that there are clear health benefits for 13 to 16-year-olds who start school at 10am.

Our pre-frontal cortex, which is responsible for organisation, planning and emotional regulation, doesn’t fully develop until we are in our mid-twenties, so no wonder children and teens struggle! 

Too much, too young

What if until children were around 7 years old (year two), education was pure play? 

There is research to show that children, especially younger children, learn more effectively through play than through classroom learning. 

This is one of the reasons that the idea of including outdoor education as part our curriculum is gaining steam. 

Charlotte Davis, a leading education consultant and Tomatis practitioner, says that our human sound processing skills, the ability for our eyes to move together (essential for reading) , our speech and motor skills don’t finish developing until we are 7. She, therefore, believes that forcing earlier learning can actually damage future potential.

Other experts also believe that trying to teach children to read and write before they have fully developed, could do more harm than good. 

‘Classes’ for the first couple of years of school could be more creative and play-focused such as drama, art and sport - activities that engage their developing bodies in movement. 

The UK is one of only six countries in Europe which expect children to start school before the age of six. This is despite many studies linking a later school start age of six years old, to better social, emotional and cognitive development.  

Despite having evidence that children don’t benefit from starting formal education until they are at least six, many parents don’t have a choice but to send their children to school. 

Whilst the availability of childcare is a subject for a whole different blog, instead of the government forcing our children to engage in a formal learning before they’re ready, why don’t they just let them play - this is how they learn anyway! 

Instead of teaching our children to pass exams, why don’t we foster their curiousity and unique interests and encourage them to carve out their own path in this rapidly changing world? 

What do you think? How would you change our education system?