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Friday, 30 September 2011

How to be a Student: Part Two

Some private-school teachers, even some head teachers of private schools, are heard to describe their pupils as 'students'. The nomenclature is universal in comprehensive schools.
If this was just a sop to awkward teenagers, to boost their egos and attract their attention, it would simply be inappropriate.
If it were imposed by the grauniadistas as a politically correct description, the conformity of the teaching profession with it would simply be pathetic.
But it is much more serious than that; it is much more detrimental to the state of the nation and a disaster for the economy.
It is an unambiguous and transparent declaration by the comprehensive schools' classroom staff that they long ago ceased to do the job for which the public believes it is paying them. Those staff accept being descibed as teachers, and they are paid as teachers: but the great majority do not perceive their duty to be to teach. They purport to facilitate the self-learning process of their 'students'. But those 'students' do not have the anatomic maturity of brain, the worldly understanding or the range of knowledge that is necessary to devise their own learning programme or process. 'Experiential learning' that is unstructured and unguided produces only ignorance and anarchy: so [against the protests of the 'teaching profession']the schools are required to coax a cohort of their charges to meet the minimalist requirements of a National Curriculum and to enable a sufficient proportion to reach the final stage of in-school examinations with a result that is considered satisfactory for university entrance.
Schools that lie within affluent residential areas are blessed with parents who have a concern for the quality of their childrens' education, who ensure that the home assists in their education, and thus enable those schools to attract staff who will teach for at least a portion of each working day in a realistically disciplined environment. These schools send disproportionately high percentages of their output into higher education and real craft apprenticeships as compared with what are openly recognised as 'bog standard' schools; but most of them abjectly fail to develop the least-able and least-socialised of their entrants.
Some schools prepare no-one for university entrance for years until their 'failure' is recognised and they are 'put in special measures' or disbanded. Other 'sink schools' in socially mixed areas are able to combine with exceptionally committed families to enable a few candidates annually to achieve acceptable terminal results. This is done at the expense of allowing a very significant group of children - in some cases, a majority - to end their school careers functionally illiterate and innumerate, undisciplined and unattuned to adult society, sociable conduct or employment.
Where everything seems to have gone wrong, it is extremely difficult to see where to begin to put it right, but the longest journey begins with the first step. The first step for the schools system is simple: teachers must call their charges 'pupils' and seriously review their work in the plain meaning of those terms. 

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