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Marina Kim

Marina Kim: My vision of Gove with a whip and my view of how schools could be better

Marina Kim is a journalist working in London. Her website is www.marinakim.co.uk and she is on Twitter as @MarinaKim_

Screen shot 2013-06-17 at 08.05.01A lot of what we study at school bears little relevance to real life. Heads are overloaded and overheated with facts, numbers, words… The surreal vision of Michael Gove with a whip, calm but firm, is enough to scare any teacher into submission of pushing their students harder and harder. But all in vain – it seems - as so many of us simply come out confused after years of this intense acquisition of knowledge.

What is it that the education system is really lacking? How is what we learned at school helping us make decisions and communicate with others in everyday life? Does the curriculum move quickly enough with the fast-moving times? What do we really need for happiness, and how can education help us with it?

There's an ongoing debate whether we need relationship and sex classes at school, and how they should be taught. The opponents of the current system say it’s “too little, too late - and too biological.” It is difficult to determine what age is appropriate for children to learn about sex. Some kids go through puberty at eight – others could be many years later. I was a late bloomer, and played with dolls until I was 16. I can’t even imagine what shock I would have experienced had my teachers started explaining to me, before I was ready, about the process of how new humans are born. We should be careful not to educate kids too early but if we leave it too late then there is no point in it at all. There must definitely be an individual approach.

With gay marriage laws and gays able to adopt children, should schools catch up with the trend and teach about the safety of gay sex as well? Should gay relationships be discussed at the same relationship classes as straight ones? I can foresee quite a few parents being militantly against it, especially those from religious backgrounds. It could also be that children who want to learn about gay sex are bullied. Another reason for an individual approach to this sensitive issue.

Perhaps the solution could be an in-house professional psychologist who, apart from sex education, could also determine, through games and psychological tests, what kind of help this or that child needs, and teach them positive mental thinking at all times. Perhaps some deep and dark secrets, and wounds that children bear, would surface, too.

Attachment to skills from the past that are no longer relevant for today should be replaced with the development of more employment-applicable skills, including the effective use of online media resources, and building social networks that could be useful in getting jobs and developing a business in future.

Environmental study must also become a statutory part of the curriculum. Trees don’t really care if you hug them, but people should do. It is so important to teach the e-children of megapolises to notice the beauty of nature away from computer screens. Maybe David Attenborough videos should be a part of this process, too, to make this transition from e-life into the real world less scary for modern children. His videos are very inspirational, and not every child gets the opportunity to watch them at home.

Countryside camping and hill walking develop camaraderie and enhance friendships. Moreover, if children see cows in meadows or visit bee farms, they will no longer be confused where milk comes from, and learn that bees make honey.

Another type of obligatory teaching that society often lacks is about manners. Manners mean more than just being polite. It is a matter of learning how to peacefully co-exist in society. Judging by the increasingly aggressive world, such lessons must be introduced as a matter of urgency, and should be combined with general lessons of empathy, with tasks involving helping the elderly and disabled.

Such languages as Chinese, Russian and Arabic should be encouraged as useful for finding jobs and trading with rapidly developing countries. And yet in many schools the options are still just German or French. OK, at least it’s a relief that those years have not been wasted on Italian or Greek…

Gove is right to be making exams harder. This is not only a lesson in education. It is a lesson of life. The vision of Gove with a whip follows me…Such a oity that his heart already belongs to Diane Abbott… To succeed you have to work. Hard. Push yourself. He wants to put an emphasis on Shakespeare and British history. Brilliant! Apart from the obvious, this cultivates patriotism, an important but all too often forgotten quality of a good citizen.

Perhaps it would also be a good idea to introduce weekly discipline grades. Those with low discipline grades should have their parents invited to speak to the head teacher. If they don’t improve then a professional psychologist should interfere. Sometimes bad discipline signals a protest, or is a sign of trouble and unhappiness. If parents don’t notice it, a school should.

But with all the increasing educational demands, we must not forget to let primary school children be children. Pressure can increase at secondary school, but primary school should be more like edutainment - knowledge via fun and games. Two or three hour breaks in between classes would also be a good idea, as these will prolong the day enough for parents to be able to pick up their kids after work, and yet would not stress out the children.

Old boys network could work on a state school level, too. Those will be the days when papers are enraged when a Prime Minister who graduated from Stockton-On-Tees Secondary School employs another Stockton-On-Teesonian as a Minister of Education or maybe even as Chancellor…

Society is not static, and children of today make up the society of tomorrow. So, while preparing them for the worst, let’s hope that the updated knowledge and skills we are giving them will make our children better than us. If we don’t feel this is happening, it means we are failing them.


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