As featured in Parentdish

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Different strokes

Recently I visited a primary school in what some would classify as a bad area. The headteacher spoke of a boy he once had, who he thought was clever. Giving him that year’s Standard Grade paper to sit in primary seven (unofficially) he was not too surprised that he passed.

So far, so good. Role on a few years and here’s the sad part. The boy left school with no qualifications. Not one Standard Grade. We discussed this and voiced the same opinions – disappointing – yes, surprising – no.

I have many other stories of the same ilk which I could recount. Many of the bright sparks from my primary days quickly burnt out. Many of the slow burners are now shining brightly.

With the introduction of the new Curriculum for Excellence many teachers think that the increase in cross-curricular work in secondary schools will help them retain the pupils they ‘lose’. They hope these kids will continue to do well. But I think this ignores the fact that learning is not linear and some kids will simply do well at different stages of their education. It also overlooks the fact that some children do well early on because they are being pushed by their parents. At some point these children will get fed up of being pushed. And often the parents also get fed up of the pushing. In countries where they don’t start learning to read or write until seven, the children simply take less time learning to read, and they very quickly outperform countries were they send them to school early.

Will making secondary teaching more like primary teaching, with less rigid subject, be the answer? I just don’t think so.

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