Thursday, 3 April 2014

It might be good, but can you measure it?

Structured learning, targets, overt teaching, more inspections. Is it another attempt to bring our GCSE results up to the standard of the Chinese? 

(Incidentally, I have the perfect solution to that problem should anyone wish to try it out. And it costs nothing! It is this: teach our children Chinese-style, complete with Chinese discipline. Seriously, no wonder they're so good at maths...) 

But no. This isn't anything to do with exams and international league tables (yet). It's a new idea for the under fives.
Before I go any further I have to admit that I'm not a great believer in the mantra that a problem of whatever nature - social, economic, educational - is best fixed by throwing more and more official, government-funded stuff at it. 

So the idea that if - and it is a big 'if' - the nation's five-year-olds aren't being adequately prepared for school we should throw Ofsted at the problem, test it and set targets for it is not one I find convincing. After all, look at what that's done for GCSE results (see above)!

But there's something even bigger at stake this time - childhood. Yes, childhood. My youngest can count, she recognises words and letters and at age three is as ready as she needs to be for the reception year at school. 

She goes to a lovely, gently stimulating nursery and at home she plays. Yes, plays. I make sure what she plays can also help her learn a little some times but I also like to see her play for it's own sake, play for the fun of it, play for play's sake. 

And the benefits - over and above the obvious pleasure - are impossible to measure: how can you quantify happiness? How can you set a target for a child's imagination?

I find today's talk of the inadequacy of our under-fives depressing. And I tell you what - I bet if you look hard enough you'll find a few inadequacies in those Chinese classrooms too.

Only, we can't see them. Because no-one's measuring. 

1 comment:

  1. The best nursery schools anyway are play-based even when they're trying to teach them something. I am amazed from afar at the academic pressure the UK places on teeny tiny kids. When I first came to the US I was slightly appalled that they don't start all day school till Year 1 and they don't launch them into reading and writing straight away. Amazingly, they all get there in the end, and by the time my kids were about 8 or 9 they were at exactly the same stages in every subject as their English cousins.


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