Aside

Imitation over Imagination?

How much use is imitation over learning? Nowadays imitation from a teacher or textbook is all that seems to matter. You must have the same viewpoint or you are wrong. Why can’t people just accept that there are different viewpoints to many subjects, or different ways to look at problems. Originality is subjective, and maybe that’s why educators don’t want it in our education system: otherwise people won’t end out the same. It would be harder to categorise everyone into skill and ability levels.

Even as I write this post I am aware that I am horrifically unoriginal, and that may just be me, but for an education system to encourage being original, there has to be leniency from the prescribed ‘right’ answer. Exams and key stages are limitting to the development of original thought. Even as I write this now I don’t feel as though I can be original in my writing, I dont know how, I havent learnt how to think for myself. Constantly I am relying on others opinions and ideas to form my own. Is this fair? I don’t believe so.

When a child creates, however useful or not they should be encouraged. Using kolbs learning cycle they should experience  a thought or experience, reflect on it , improve and understand it and then try again. This way they are learning and improving rather than giving up when something isn’t ‘right’. This way of learning can give anyone confidence in themselves and can trigger further ideas. If they fail that is okay! Not everything should have to be perfect, but to have ideas for yourself is a skill which is under valued currently.

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Imitation in institutes such as Universitys is obviously encouraged as long as referenced properly, but if you have your own ideas, and are original, you may not get the grade you were looking for. Originality is much more subjective and you could receive anything from A-F depending on your grader. Children when they are young are encouraged to be original and use their imagination with tools found in early years classrooms. They find out for themselves and use their imagination, copying is not an option. I once played with children and a box for hours; they made it into a boat, a bed,  a house, a prison. It was anything and everything and it helped them understand different concepts. They knew basics and built on them, this is highly related to Kolbs learning cycle.

Imitation can be difficult to remove in the case of assessment as subjective testing is hard to encourage with standard criterias. But shouldnt imagination conquer all? We should help the next generation create, and contintue to create. You can never underestimate the power of using our minds.

Books: Friend and Foe.

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Books and reading are becoming an important question in education systems; how many? which ones? how often? Even problem solving is confined to the few formulas in the textbook which can all be related, what about applying those skills and children being able to use their minds to unlock the answers; not just read a book. Rousseau claimed in the 18th Century that ‘Children who read do not think, they just read’. And it is a similar idea to that which I am writing this post over. How much do we learn from books, especially if we are told which books to read?

Everyone will be different but when I read a good book I notice various ideas and information which is not necessarily relevant but it means something to me. In Peter James’ ‘Dead’ Series I found out that every person walks slightly differently, their ‘gait’, and that you can be identified over this idea. In this sense books can be a brilliant source of information you may not have otherwise encountered. But from reading Lord of the Flies and Pride and Prejudice (both okay books) there was nothing I can remember. And I do not believe this is because the books themselves dont hold information, I just wasn’t looking when reading at school. This may depend on the type of person, reading has to be intrinsically worthwhile for children to appreciate it; being forced to read will not encourage reading.

 Encouraging reading from an early age has been seen to work in increasing standards of schooling; a local school to me has received an ‘Outstanding’ Ofsted report which they claim is due to reading. This shows that reading can be valuable in general (fiction reading and reading for pleasure, not textbooks). See the article here. These sorts of skills which children learn at a young age can aid progression in other areas. 

Maybe to encourage reading but not to force certain ideals from books onto children is a better alternative. Having them choose the book, let them find some information out about the story or the purpose of the book and decide for themselves why they would or wouldn’t like to read it. Even Rousseau let Emile (1762) read one book; Robinson Crusoe, so that he could learn skills such as self dependency which is crucial for thriving on your own and can be applied to various situations. 

Text books are of course different, they are still useful and do hold the knowledge, their purpose is to educate. But with so many key theorists proposing active learning ideas it is clear that you must engage children through interaction, not just by reading information passively. Examples of theorists are; Vygotsky (Published 1964) and his Zone of Proximal Development, Piaget with discovery learning, John Dewey who was a pioneer for progressive learning, Fredrich Frobels who created the first kindergarten which focused on play an activity… the list goes on. Textbooks limit learning: there is little inquiry, activity, questioning or original thinking. Answers are passed from one child to another, right or wrong, no alternatives. They had their use in their own time, they were created to give information which had previously been lacking, but now with so many alternative sources they have become outdated, they are not able to keep up with the changing world. In science I had a textbook which still had Pluto listed as a planet years after it had been changed. It confuses, I’m still confused now and just had to Google the answer in case it had changed again. (It is now a dwarf-planet if anyone cared) What sort of education is that? 

Books can be the source of such imagination, constantly more stories are thought up, often similar to other books but it the literacy, the style which can sometimes captures audiences. The use of textbooks should be minimal, they should not be relied on.

The skills children will learn through inquiry and questioning will stay with them for much longer than a passage in a textbook.

Agree/Disagree? 

 

Brief Thoughts on an Aims Based Curriculum

Reiss and White proposed an aims based curriculum in their paper published in 2013. It speaks about the two main aims which should be in our schools. These aims are the same as the aims in our homes and should be encouraged.

The aims should equip children;

1) To lead a flourishing life
2) To help others do so.

These two aims are general but Reiss and White state that you can start with these and then go into the specifics. It got me wondering whether basing subjects around these two aims, rather than having subjects define the curriculum, would be better. Peters in 1959 claimed ‘Must the educator have an aim?’. In this society I think education must have an aim, otherwise with certain attitudes education itself may lack appeal. All policy and schools are designed with aims in mind, whether this is for work, for knowledge or for its own sake. It is still aiming to improve and to help the child succeed in their own right.

What is a flourishing life ? And how can we achieve it? What happens if we go through the same education and lifestyle as some one else yet they flourish and we don’t? Would this happen? Flourishing lives consist of meaningful relationships, meaningful work and creation of things (e.g music, art) and even research. Anything which contributes positively and improves happiness. This does not suggest that we should all aim to become rich quickly through a lack of morality, if it would help us be happy, but education should show us the way to be successful through dedication and determination. In this sense it would be important to design a curriculum which did this. Rather than having subjects which have good intentions but no purpose. The current curriculum design is based on subjects and then aims are fitted to those subjects. It is similar to finding a new hand which fits the glove you have already made, rather than making a new glove to fit the hand you had in the first place.

If we want our children to be happy then we should also raise them to want to help others flourish also. Help others to reach their goals and celebrate with them when they do. It is about teaching children what is moral and how morality affects us. It is also showing that citizenship is important in helping others and yourself simultaneously, and this second aim can also encourage education for work, and show how contribution can be seen as important. Happiness through all of these ideas is paramount. Aristotle claimed that happiness is the end of all, and encourages the ‘best life you can lead is a good life’ (Aristotle, 340 BC). Happiness is important for a child and will motivate them for a future of similar aims.

An English Teacher, Cuthbert, claimed that aims are vague and lack coherence, and feared that education with an aims based curriculum will begin to become non-educational. Maybe there needs to be the aims suggested in these articles, but once the material needed is added, alternative material should additionally be seen in the curriculum so that the ideas are not limiting. With the example of P.E, aims would suggest it is just for physical health, however there are other uses for P.E – coordination, learning a sport, teamwork. These would otherwise not be mentioned.

Reiss and White followed up their publication with a journal entry in March of this year (2014). This showed the science curriculum in relation to the aims based curriculum. The science curriculum is there to ‘provide a preparatory basis for the small percentage of pupils who will become scientists’ (Reiss and White, 2014). So is it a waste of time for all other children who do not go on to study science? Most of the science curriculum is based on what was the science curriculum beforehand, with a few alterations. The aims based curriculum states that science should be the background knowledge of human nature, how humans function and the social aspects of human nature also. Is this restrictive? Maybe slightly. But the idea is not to call this approach ‘science’. It is simply finding out about human nature and all other aspects of it, you can bring in history, English and many other ideas. The idea of not putting certain topics into one specific subject is the main idea of the Aims Based Curriculum. This approach is about the bigger picture, not the restrictions of each subject and the rigid way in which they are separated, never to come into contact. But it is still unclear how it would be constructed if there are such broad aims to begin with.

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Growth and flourishing are of importance in all aspects education.

The Independent Review of the Primary Curriculum (2009)

Conducted by Sir Jim Rose and published in Spring 2009, the Independent Review of the Primary Curriculum (or the Rose Review as I’ll refer to it) aimed to show the ideal way forward for primary education. It was an insight into how primary education should be approached. Its used progressive ideas  including the idea of possible crossing over of topics in different subjects. Due to a shift in government to the Tory/Lib government, the ideas were not implemented.

The Rose Review suggested learning should be categorised into six broad topics. These included; mathematics understanding, history, geography and social understanding, English communications and language understanding, physical development understanding, scientific and technological understanding and finally, arts and design understanding. These six topics were aims-based in a way because it looked at giving the child skills for their future lives. The reviews aims were simple, to use these topics to create confident individuals, to promote being a responsible citizen, and importantly to be successful life long learners. All these aims can not be considered a negative in any education system and this was shown by them being welcomed by professionals in the area. IT researched through observation the best structure for the Primary Curriculum. The review considered the whole child and was also inclusive by considering foster children and developing difficulties of various different children.

There was a high emphasis on lessening the differences between the key stages, as there was issues found within classrooms of the shift in learning expectations from one stage to the next. In particular there was a focus on lessening the gap between Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and Key Stage 1 (KS1), and between KS2 and KS3. This was recommended to encourage recognition of progression for the children. Even though this approach lessened the rigid nature of subjects it respected their differences. It was a way to think outside the box and link various topics together.

This review did not forget the importance of literacy and numeracy and suggested that with this curriculum no child should leave primary school incompetent in these areas. There was also a high focus on ICT so that all children will be ready for the adapting times in the sense of technology. The Rose Review was claimed to be enjoyed by children, which is such an important element, without enjoying the material and being engaged children will rarely learn to their best potential (Rose, 2009).

The review does have some flaws as it does only mention certain necessary skills for children to learn such as problem solving, and does not mention many others in great detail. But whether this is because the skills will be learnt through the style of curriculum is debatable. A report by an unknown user in 2009 makes the valid claim that why should children learn topics across-curricular and how does this help? I feel that there is use, because then the children are learning about a topic, whilst also learning other skills which they are unaware. They will then not just associate certain topics with skills they do not enjoy, but will associate subjects with school, and interesting topics will keep them interested in all aspects. This will of course not always be the case but it is an ideal.

The Rose Review was seen as a positive way of changing the school curriculum, and it can be seen in schools today in elements, a school I once volunteered in focused on a topic of Castles. They made castles in art, they looked at the history of castles and they even wrote stories about knights and castles in literacy. Having the background knowledge made it much more interesting to study in the other subjects as well. How can you write a story about a castle without knowing what it is? or what it looks like? It engages the children and opened up their imaginations. Even if the Rose Review was not implemented I feel its elements are still seen in schools today in ways, even if they are not exactly how ideas were presented.

 

Want to check out the whole of the Rose Review ? Click Here. 

The 1944 Education Act – The Butler Act

I have already spoken about the Tripartite system of this act in my previous post, however this was not actually put in the Act. The Education act of 1944 was interpreted to adopt a Tripartite system and so most Local Authorities did use this system, but it was not necessary. It had been suggested by the Spens report of 1938 and then backed up with the Norwood report of 1943 which suggested the various curriculum’s of each school type.

What the act did consist of however was changes in Policy. The first section focused on Central Government. Central Government was to become more interested in education by the appointment of a Minister of Education. It would be his/her duty to ensure a ‘comprehensive’ education for all. This use of language surprised me when considering the Tripartite system stemmed from this act, however I feel the act focused more on everyone attending education and having the opportunity more than it all being the same. The act brought in compulsory education to those who had not previously been entitled to it; up to the age of 15. Before the act only 10% of children attended secondary school (Sulivan, 1956). The Second area of the act considered Local Education Authority’s (LEAs) to have a large say in running and regulating the education system around them. However the LEAs which had already been set up, and after the act 169 of these were closed down, with their areas taken over by other LEAs.

Other sections included Religious Education; all children would study Christianity, School Governance, appointment and dismissal of teachers and Health. A new change in education was the focus on the whole child which was brought about by the 1944 Education Act. It looked into regular health checks and Meals & Milk for the most vulnerable which was a highly regarded privilege for those children.

The education act was a major change in legislation and did make an impact on the schooling sector for many decades. Education is constantly changing and new laws and policies come into play every year, but the Butler act of 1944 will always be a game changer, and an important move towards a better educational future.

The 11+ Exam

So the 11+ exam was the way of determining whether children were academic, practical or vocational. It had stemmed from the Spens Report of 1938 and the Hadow report of 1926. In these reports there had been an expressed need for personalised education, education which suited each child as an individual. And the 11+ was a test to determine which education would be suited. The curriculum’s in three different schools varied; from Grammar schools teaching academic curriculum’s including Latin and Further Arithmetic, to Secondary Moderns teaching a more practical version of this, and Technical schools for the vocationally suited children.

I have no doubt that at the time the 1944 education act proposed by Rab Butler was revolutionary and was meant to echo the culture around at the time. I also feel it had good intentions, but I don’t see why it was so popular. My father failed the 11+ exam and went to a Secondary Modern due to the lack of Technical schools in his area. On paper he should be bitter and feel as though he was let down and could have been something else. But he supports that system, and I’m not sure why.

At 11 it is too early to know if you are academic or not, let alone answer tests which didn’t quite make sense even to adults (I tried one of these tests the other day, I passed however many of the questions did not make sense, let alone for an eleven year old). The system had flaws which can be reflected on now. The 11+ was seen as a pass or fail culture, as it was often between attending Secondary Moderns (if you did not do as well) or Grammar schools (if you succeeded). It started a class bias and divided the classes, the test was more suited to middle class white children and so they, naturally, did better. Also due to economic issues they were able to pay for tuition. At least a high percentage of children were able to attend secondary school after the 1944 Education act, when the leaving age of school raised to 15. Before this adolescents had limited opportunities (Dent, 1968). 

My issue was that I thought that it would lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy for the children who did not pass the exam, and in some cases I’m sure it did. In that the children already felt as though they had failed, and so did not believe they could amount to anything, then they did not try as hard, failed a test and the cycle would start all over again. Most children did only leave secondary moderns with a Certificate to show they had completed high school, and a chance to do apprenticeships to gain a way to work.

What about the children who may not have passed at 11, but may have been wonderful academics if given the chance? Were their chances stifled by this system? Many will not know. All I have learnt about the 11+ exam is from my lectures, and it seemed like a bad idea to categorize children in this way from such a young age, whilst they are still developing. But I feel that in some ways it had good intentions; it intended to make sure children could get the best education for them, and not waste their time learning skills they would never use. But the exam itself failed many. And is still making some children feel like failures today.

Emile, By Rousseau 1762

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Rousseau had a central idea of education. He found that the successful way to educate a child was at the level of that child. He believed that children should not grow up too quickly, an ideal which is not seen enough in today’s educational system or in society. The problem is that childhood and play are not valued enough in their own right; a value Rousseau proposed in his child centered learning approach in the 1700’s. 

The emphasis of keeping childhood separate from adulthood is a major theme running through Emile. In the lead up to adolescence Rousseau still considers Emile as a child. A child who can appreciate the use of things and sees how workers can help him and why he must work. Not just because he has been told this but understanding is achieved. This, and other traits and skills, has been learnt through discovery. Emile has been shown places ; e.g sunset and sunrise at the same place, which raises questions and can be better acknowledged. Being told information cannot lead to deep processing. It is semantic (meaningful) information which is remembered. 

Rousseaus Emile is a fictional character brought up by a tutor. Emile is a boy and it is claimed that boys should be educated separately from girls according to Rousseau (Boyd , 1956). However as Emile was written long ago, and although it is progressive, it is not progressive in the sense of gender equality.
An interesting concept in book two is that of the senses, Rousseau suggests that the boy knows no facts only images from the senses which must be compared to each other to check for factual information. This is when the child is younger than twelve.  It is a restriction which Emile must overcome and start to think outside the ‘sphere of senses'; or outside the box. Another running theme in book two is that of happiness. In those times children rarely lived past adolescence and so to have a child prepare miserably for a life they may not even live for is deemed pointless. Being happy is of most importance.

A boy under twelve is highly limited to social influences, peers and relatives who tell him what he ought to do. to change this and to be ‘kept good’ a child must be brought up away from the corruption of society. There is cause to question whether the child is learning by themselves due to the tutor, however Rousseau claimed that the tutor was an incidental factor and not necessary in the development. This may be an early example of scaffolding proposed by Bruner (1978).

Rousseau claims you can either make a man or a citizen. But what is the difference? and why is it necessary in all cases to only be able to raise a child as one or the other? 

Which is better?