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by John Brian Shannon | September 15, 2016
Prime Minister Theresa May says she wants Great Britain to become the world’s Great Meritocracy and one of the ways she intends to accomplish it, is by raising the priority given to education.
Which is brilliant! Of all the ways to spend taxpayer money to Build a Better Britain, equipping young minds to become all they can and should be must rank highest of all.
Much has been vocalized via the anecdotes of those who attended Grammar schools in Britain in the 1950’s-1980’s era who had decidedly poor experiences. In that era, education (and other parts of society) weren’t all that they could and should’ve been, and some schools, whether Grammar, Comprehensive, Modern, Academy, Faith, or Private, were downright terrible. And that is a shame.
But because a minority of students were badly educated or badly treated (or both) in various locations across the country, does not mean that Britain should close all schools or demonize certain kinds of schools.
Rather, let’s roll up our sleeves, find out what needs to be fixed and how to fix it, and Build a Better Britain
On that note, Grammar schools must be doing something right as the current Prime Minister and three members of her cabinet were educated in Grammar schools. Other PM’s and cabinet ministers over the years have likewise attended Grammars.
Due to the focus put on Britain’s education system by PM Theresa May, the comment forms at several UK websites show many people railing against the so-called 11+ exams (that’s the age the children take the exam) saying that they put undue pressure on students and parents, and that the result of one series of exams can turn a student’s entire future for the worse.
Accordingly, any blame for the pressure felt by students and parents in regards to the 11+ gets transferred onto the Grammar schools which, not incidentally, are performing wonderfully.
Clearly, the problem is the 11+ exam system itself, where parents feel they must hire (perhaps expensive) tutors to prep their child for the exam, and where the cost of failure breeds fear among students.
Miserable and over-pressured students do not learn well
Some children are late-bloomers and might fail the 11+ exam, but those same kids could hit their stride by age 12 or 13. For some students, it just takes the ‘right teacher’ to make learning fun and and they begin to excel for no apparent reason.
Once you have that going for you, exams are just enough of a challenge to keep your interest but not knock you off the planet with dread.
Therefore, let’s keep the 11+ exam, but normalize it by requiring one every subsequent year. To ensure that children get the best chance in life, let them take a 12+, a 13+, a 14+ and so on, until they have completed their primary and secondary education. Students could move to a Grammar when they are ready, while other children could leave Grammar school, returning to their Comprehensive or other school if they find that a Grammar isn’t working for them.
In that way children will find the school that is most appropriate to them, at the time they’re ready for it
There’s room for improvement in the British educational system and a simple course correction might be all that’s needed.
Here are three ways to improve educational outcomes for students:
- Instead of 11+ exams taken at age 11 (and only age 11) that can determine a child’s entire educational future based on one exam, add 12+, 13+, 14+ and 15+ exams to the mix. In that way, children will find the most appropriate school for them.
- Increased funding for schools, particularly at the pre-school and early development stages.
- Vocational schools that teach the academic programme, but are geared to appeal to those kids who know they want to work with their hands; The future home builders and skyscraper constructors, the automotive, rail, and aircraft manufacturers and maintenance staff of the 21st century. And so much more.
Instead of shooting for a minimum standard, Britain’s government should be empowering all of Britain’s students to become all that they can and should be whether they choose to become an Accountant or a Zoologist, or anything in between.
But whatever path they choose, let’s give them the ability to be the very best Accountant or Zoologist they can be.
That’s what it will take for Great Britain to become the world’s Great Meritocracy.