Monday, 29 February 2016

My Times letter on social mobility and the need for more support in state schools for creativity

the-times-logo-e1370251950586
Sir, Your article about the disproportionate number of privately educated people at the top of the acting profession (“Those old school ties still matter for judges, doctors . . . and actors”, Feb 24; letters Feb 25 and 26) shows that more must be done to enable state schools to nurture the talent of all our children.

Beyond the obvious need for additional teaching and other resources, effort is needed to change the attitude in government about what constitutes a good education. At present, there is far too much emphasis on testing, and not enough on encouraging young people to be creative and to learn skills such as acting or playing a musical instrument. It’s these skills that develop well-rounded, confident young people who will be capable of becoming Oscar-winners, or indeed leaders in any field. If more students develop their creative talents, one might say they had received a “comprehensive” education.

John Slinger

Online here.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

BBC radio report on effect of drought on Ethiopian schools is journalism at its best

I just listened to an amazing and moving report by Tim Franks from the northern state of Tigray in Ethiopia http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06zqq9n (21 mins onwards). He meets teachers, students  and families struggling with the drought. Children in an impoverished, drought-afflicted area turning up for school feeling tired, thirsty and hungry yet desperately wanting to gain an education to better themselves. One boy runs 15k each way to and from school. 

Tim Franks visits a mother who is sad to keep her grade A daughter at school some days to help her find water - but she has no choice. She lives in a tiny, mud-walled hut.

The interviewed children were charming, polite, keen to learn and spoke English fluently. They wanted to help themselves through education and help their country.

Contrast this with the situation in the UK where, sadly, there is all too often not enough respect for teachers and education from students and parents (and wider society). Where the concern we have is whether kids consume too many sugary, expensive drinks, not whether they have enough water in their bodies to stop them falling asleep. Where kids are often obese because they eat too much food, rather than those in Ethiopia who are fed using government-distributed grain and whose family goats struggle to stay alive eating dried out weeds. Where children in the UK often take their education for granted and where teachers are made to feel responsible for solving the 'problems' of society, while in Ethopia the children grasp keenly at any opportunity given them. 

Take a listen to this report and tell me that there really are so many 'problems' in our Western societies. We have so much, yet value so little. We're quick to complain yet slow to act to improve our own communities through volunteering. We blame government, or 'the system' while reneging on our responsibilities - to ourselves, our children, our communities. 

We have a lot to learn from superb journalism like this.