Tuesday, July 04, 2006
Wasted youth - it's official!
Interesting article on home schooling in The Sunday Times this week. One paragraph really did knock me off my chair. Imagine a study in any walk of business or life that shows people simply waiting for 50-60% of their time for something to happen. That’s exactly what two researchers have found in both the US and UK. American anthropologist Philip Jackson, showed that children in school spent 50% of their time waiting. When Roland Meighan took a stopwatch into a primary school to conduct the same research with his students, he found they spent as much as 60% of their time waiting for something to happen.
I recently went into a school for a morning and saw how true this was. This was an advanced school that had eliminated unnecessary movements by hundreds of kids between classes by having only 3 periods a day. But even here it was obvious that most of the time, most of the kids were simply waiting to go into school, waiting or wandering about in corridors, sitting waiting on lessons to start, waiting on the teacher to check their work or waiting as they had finished their work. And why does the entire population of kids have to stand up ate the end of every hour and move classroom? What a massive waste of productive time, as well as providing ideal opportunities for bullying. Why don’t the relatively tiny number of teachers move?
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That really is pretty shocking stuff. However your proposal that the teachers move rather than the students is sadly not practicable. Each subject has its own needs in terms of facilities, e.g. washbasins, tape recorders, bunsen burners and the like. I know in most German schools that they only move for the practical subjects, e.g. science, PE, art, which is more workable, but even in a subject like history or languages, you need sets of text books, and every classroom in covered with pupil work from the subject or with keywords/useful information etc. In my first year as a modern languages teacher I taught in about 6 different rooms during the week and it nearly killed me. I got a bad back from carrying text books and a tape recorder around, the starts of my lessons were less than organised and it all added to my stress levels.
Sadly I don't have a solution - a radical change in how we teach perhaps, but that could take some time...
Fair comments. However, there could be a debate or study on the issue so that an optimal balance could be struck. Specialist subjects such as science and PE obviously need dedicated space, but we shouldn't let poster decoration stop the others.
Finland and Germany seem to manage this and outscore us on all sorts of educational measures. Your last comment is a more likely solution - 'a radical change in how we teach'. If more of the curriculum and resources move online, then a fixed classroom with a massive range of online resources would solve the problem.
I am involved in a NESTA funded project being run by a team from the Open University which is looking at getting kids to define what learning should be like (especially in the light of technology). I attended a session given by one of the groups of kids yesterday and was very impressed. In view of this post I think it might interest you, and I am sure the project could benefit from some of your insights and contacts.
If this sounds at all interesting please could you e-mail me (Mark at MarkFrank.co.uk) or call me on my mobile 0773 887 4040.
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