Monday, August 15, 2011

7 ways education contributes to rioting?

Many riots take place during the summer months when the rioters are not at school or college. They have time on their hands, are often bored and don’t have to get up for anything the next morning.

The education system, therefore, becomes a contributory factor in social unrest. It is the only area of human endeavour that sticks to a 19th century agricultural calendar and curriculum, which has several downsides:

  1. Facilities lie idle in schools for months on end – sports facilities, theatres, classrooms – as they are mothballed during long holidays.
  2. Kids find themselves with little to do, especially te poor, who can’t afford holidays and travelling.
  3. The cost of holidays is pushed beyond many poor parents because travel companies push up prices during the school holidays, leaving and poor to amuse themselves on the streets.
  4. The cost of education is artificially high because the capital and maintenance budget is not spent wisely. For months of the year these buildings are largely empty.
  5. Summer is a time for forgetting. We know that the long summer hols set back students, especially those from poorer background with less home support in learning. This in turn leads to low achievement and disaffection.
  6. Pushing irrelevant educational content, such as the more esoteric portions of the maths curriculum, literary criticism and Latin, is a recipe for further disaffection with schools.
  7. The educational apartheid and failure to give vocational learning the status it deserves leads to perceived failure by those who do not have an academic bent, again leading to disaffection.

Now we know that there’s a need for better education and training. Surely we could find a way to add a fourth semester to school and colleges, to make better use of the assets, reduce the cost per student and get on with solving some of the problems in our society. I’ve already blogged a good example of how this could be achieved through practical, vocational, learning opportunities that sweat existing, unused facilities.

Isn’t it also ironic that the rioters shop of choice is JB Sports and their loot of choice sportswear and the irony that these riots took place in the shadow of the Olympic build. The rhetoric is all about participation in sport, yet the youth clubs in these areas are being shut down. This has been a lost opportunity. We could have used the Olympics as a means to create tens of thousands of apprenticeships and encouraged participation in sport through local initiatives. My kids have been training all summer in Tae Kwon do. It’s kept them fit and occupied. Note that this has nothing to do with school and PE – the PE teachers are all on holiday and the school facilities locked up. In fact the classes normally run in my two nearest schools have stopped because the schools are closed! This is madness.


Dick Moore said...

A system designed to fail 50%? Our education systems was built around an industrial economy, not the post-industrial world we live in. The education system by its own definition fails 50% of its clients who don't achieve 5 A-C including Maths and English - the threshold required for entry into an aspirational life style. The system is designed and maintained by those for whom it has delivered and worked and as a result across the world we see reports and recommendations rejected discussing educational reform, Wolf, Leitch, Tomlinson in the UK, the NAVE
report in the USA Can you imagine any industry that would reject 50% of its raw material after 12 years effort. So that this is not just a rant, here are
seven initiatives that I have looked at in the last year that are worthy of investigation that in my opinion are capable of increasing the *yeild* of our education systems.

1. More and better formative assessment tied in with with immediate feedback and instrumentation. See Dylan Wiliam's work + Khan Academy

2. Use of blind student peer review against a competence based curriculum. See Dan Buckleys work Cambridge education

3. Integration of technology within every subject rather than as a separate subject. ALT recommendation into National curriculum review

4. Integrated assignment based learning. Oracle Thinkquest initiative results

5 Defined functional literacy and numeracy that 90% of students pass and will use. - NOCN work on functional skills in schools

6. Personalised learning that is student centric and flips the model - Khan Academy

7 Education systems that bring the outside world into institutions - blue ribbon schools in the USA

It is ironic that many of these methods are used to deliver in failing schools and to excluded students. In a few weeks time we will hear that exams are getting easier, I don't expect to hear that 50% of the students did not make the grade. In education we are charged with creating more gold while at the same time retaining its value? Perhaps it's time to drop the gold standard in education.

Dook said...

Those long summer holidays ... oh how I remember them. Even though I am not employed by a school (working at an LA but please don't hold that against me ... consider me part of the damage limitation exercise) I still fondly remember when the children would be smiling as they left the schools gates, to be followed afterwards by the staff, most of them breathing a sigh of relief.

Having worked in a school with short summer holidays (5 term year, 8 weeks in each term with a 2 week break between each term, and 4 weeks in the summer) I can clearly see the impact the long holiday has, but there are a couple of barriers to changing the school year.

The argument about holiday costs is a moot point. As soon as you change the school year the holiday firms will change their tack as well. Anyone would think they want to earn a healthy profit!

As for the buildings being empty ... oh that they were. During those holidays you will find a variety of support staff. IT staff (yes, even in the most consumerised school where all children and staff bring their own devices there will still be IT folk, providing the infrastructure that the kit runs on, that manage the data ... and yes, data protection is a minor thing, I know ... but it is a legal thing ... and that is before we get to the site staff who will be painting, repairing, making good, changing classroom configurations yet again because yet another new person has joined senior management and has had a bright idea about the configuration of rooms ... and then we have the admin staff ... the people who have spent all year trying to get information out of families about where they live, who their doctors are, etc ... and they use this time to correct records, archive old records, prepare for the school year)

Do I think it could be done a lot better? Too right ... the lack of planning and the short-term nature of what goes on in schools is frustrating, and I would like to be able to point the finger at the swings in Govt policy on doing this ... but that isn't always the case.

When new members of staff come in they will frequently like to bring in their own ideas, their own plans, their own agenda. That can and will mean change ... sometimes, yes, it is for changes sake or down to a 'power' thing ... but it is still change.

Get planning better at school level, get schools sticking to long term development plans, get them to have a reasonable and appropriate method of deviating from the plans (and darned good reasons too ...)

I often have a bit of banter with people who say project managers are the stiflers of innovation. I tend to think people who don't plan, resulting in headless chicken syndrome are far worse.

Donald Clark said...

Thanks Dook
On school hols, it's a simple matter of supply and demand. A spread would reduce prices as demand is distributed.

As for schools being full during the hols, have to disagree. I have a primary school in my street and two large secondary schools close by. They are empty. Sure there may be a few support staff around,but I'm not sure that one or two IT or support staff are relevant here as they're not utilising the classrooms, halls and sports facilities. The rest of the world works in realtime. They use their buildings year round. Occupancy rates in schools, colleges and universities have been tracked, and the data is worrying. Most of these buildings are poorly utilised. Totally agree on planning but that means little if the basic structure doesn't change.

Rob said...

I agree with much of this - but not No.6. Who decides what's irrelevant? I can remember the cry of relevance when I was training as a teacher in the 70s. We should be using schools to prepare kids for all the factory and engineering jobs they were going to do. Oh, wait - then Mrs Thatcher arrived. Relevance and irrelevance are only useful if you see school simply as a place to prepare people for a particular function in society - and since technological change is happening so fast now, it's impossible to predict what will be required. So, I have no problem with literary criticism (well, I would say that, wouldn't I?) Surprised that a philosophy graduate takes this line.
On holidays, I always liked the German system, where the regions take holidays on a staggered rota, so that there is no point in the calendar when the entire population of children are on holiday.

Donald Clark said...

Hi Rob - re No 6, I should expand. I chose these three as there's specific areas of the curriculum that, I think, are counter productive with the majority of learners.

I'm very familiar with the maths GCSE curriculum and see no point in the more esoteric chunks of non-functional maths that are rammed down the throat of every child until they are 16 (Vorderman report wants to continue this until they are 18!). This includes much of the algebra, trigonometry and more esoteric number theory.

In English, I've seen kids turned off literature by too early exposure to 'written-only' Shakespeare. I still find it astonishing that a 14 year old should be tackling issues like love and gender by READING Shakespeare from written sources, without ever having seen it performed. It was never intended to be read. It nearly crippled my kids with boredom, and one actually loved drama. The emphasis on often esoteric poetry is also often lost on these kids.

On Latin, I've blogged loads. Teaching a dead language is a dead loss.

I'm not against these subjects being taught but to mandate them for all children and see them as the core curriculum is weird. The EBacc is PISA-driven and will condemn large numbers of kids to the certain perception of failure.

What is needed is a sense of balance. I can't see why vocational qualifications can't get the recognition they deserve.

Rob said...

Donald - I absolutely agree about the plod through the text approach - it's lazy and counter-productive. But I would contend that much of Shakespeare's value lies in the language, so it should be considered. There are many imaginative and engaging ways of teaching Shakespeare, but a system that's geared to exams can't cope with it.

Anonymous said...

Re: AMEE 2011 picture by girl for homework
Please check your stories on or other similar site. Snopes doubts authenticity of the story.

Fred Garnett said...

Great blog post! However the main way that the Education System contributed to rioting is the National Curriculum itself. This was designed to close down the incomplete radicalism of the sixties, make control its central feature, prove TINA, get people thinking in tramlines and to accept that there is no value to learning about anything other than what you have been told to learn about. The reward is a meal ticket for life if you do what you are told. Not so much '"A foot stamping on a human face forever' as 'Exams stamping on a human face forever'

AIEEE EXAM said...

I think it could be done a lot better? Too right ... the lack of planning and the short-term nature of what goes on in schools is frustrating, and I would like to be able to point the finger at the swings in Govt policy on doing this ... but that isn't always the case.