Education -A Nations Pride vs Childhood

The pressure for grades is ever present. Accepting low grades is a difficult pill to swallow.

It would be a seismic shift in education if the system moved away from standardised testing towards a more skills-based determination. Achievements equally measured across the skills, where time is allowed for students to try and fail and not be punished for trying. There is a trend in education where students are pushed towards their strong subjects. ‘Do not learn a new subject once you become a teenager because you will not score as highly‘.

How is this education? Do not learn Spanish because you might find it difficult, Geography is easier, you will get a better grade. Are we making children specialise too early? Everything you have achieved in your specialised subject will then be judged mostly on a written exam at the end. That is deemed the success or failure in learning. That score is all that matters not the content, skills or knowledge behind it, just regurgitate it. An A is an A, the grade is golden. Solution to this problem? Well that is complicated.

Does the education system let children down? For example, the ability to comfort those in need is subjectively more important in life than finding the ‘Volume of a Sphere’. Yet the system seems to be more in favour of the Volume because it is easier to teach and easier to assess. Hold on Mr Teacher Guy, you and I both know that the Volume of a Sphere is of unimaginable significance when it comes to these children’s futures.

The Volume of a Sphere has been proven to have completed some of the greatest achievements known to man (and circular based objects). The Volume of a Sphere has run (rolled) a four-minute mile, has climbed Mount Everest, makes a flawless soufflé and most surprising of all was the solution to the Cuban Missile Crisis. As you can see particularly important indeed, red carpet treatment at the ready.

It is of vital importance that children learn this logical skill above all others I am sure you agree. The child crying in the corner must be ignored for the good of nation, we need our drones, and we must continue to find the space inside a fictitious hollow object. Little known fact, the Volume of a Sphere is considering running for president in 2024 but keep it to yourself, ok. It will likely get a lot of momentum in the caucuses first, as long as they are downhill. Let us leave the Volume of a Sphere there shall we.

Comforting those in need is an interpersonal skill, this is one of the 8 intelligences identified in Howard Gardeners Multiple Intelligences model.[1] The multiple intelligence’s model has its detractors. Some venture that it simplifies human intelligence. It however addresses the consistent need for education to recognise more than just the logical and verbal.

The multiple intelligence style normally marries up with multiple learning styles. Multiple learning styles have been ingrained in teaching ideas for years, but it seems they are a myth. There is no scientific evidence to back the theory up. Learning styles are more likely learning preferences but no evidence suggest that these preferences matter. A review of published research on learning styles concluded ‘there is no adequate evidence base to justify incorporating learning-styles assessments into general educational practice’.[5]

Not developing multiple styles of intelligences in the schooling system can lead to students perceiving themselves as failures if you they are not logically or linguistically gifted. Somewhere along the way education systems have cherished these two intelligences above others, leaving gifted children behind. Perhaps the reason is that dancers, musician, and artist and others will not be a tangible asset to a country’s economy.   

The ones who struggle to following the science behind covalent bonds, the difference between a noun or a pronoun, or the maths behind inverse proportion may be the ones that have the ability to save lives, perform amazing dances, paint masterpieces or negotiate.

How can these children be cherished in an education system? Is your country’s education system only set up to reward the children who are logical and can write well?

That is the major problem facing the test heavy educational models in most of the world. Test scores in Mathematics, English and Science are compared with other countries, see TIMMS and PISA[2]. A move away from traditional test heavy model to pursue a more ‘idealistic’ model may see a country slide down these tables.

If every country sits the same test at the same time we can compare, which means every country must set their curriculums to align to these standards. The UAE, for example, have used these tests specifically to direct their entire education strategy.[3] Is this a bad thing? It probably is, if you are a student.

The result of a slide is a perception a country’s education system is then failing its children. The politicians in charge get blamed. Politicians will not take the blame; it will be passed on. The solution to a not quite improved enough TIMMS score? We need more mathematics in our schools, better mathematics teachers, more mathematics tests, and smaller mathematics class sizes.

These scores are expected to always improve, each cohorts knowledge and score increasing on the previous. The children in 2021 must score better than those in 2020, and so on. More time inside and outside school must be assigned to these subjects to keep up with the Jones’s of Singapore.

Take a step back, perhaps the Singapore approach is not the way to go.[4] This additional time gets taken from a child’s childhood. This time gets taken from a more rounded education which cherishes all intelligence’s and allows experimentation.

Everyone is different, everyone learns differently, everyone matures at different rates, everyone has different mental strains, and everyone has different strengths. Every child should have a right to enjoy their childhood.

Instead we put them in a group of 25 or so based on age and expect all children to progress at the same rate. Just make sure that progress is better than any other cohort in any other country, ever. More homework, more testing, and more content. And teachers – just teach them better, we need better scores. The nations pride is at stake.  


[1] Gardner, H. (1993), Multiple Intelligences: The Theory in Practice, Basic Books, ISBN 978-0465018222

[2] https://www.thenational.ae/uae/education/uae-pupils-improve-maths-and-science-skills-study-says-1.188217

[3] https://www.vision2021.ae/en/national-agenda-2021/list/first-rate-circle

[4] http://www.smj.org.sg/sites/default/files/4812/4812a2.pdf

[5] Pashler, H., Mcdaniel, M., Rohrer, D., & Bjork, R. (2008). Learning Styles. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 9(3), 105-119. doi:10.1111/j.1539-6053.2009.01038.x

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