Earlier this year, I was handing out leaflets for Bella Learning at an event, when a man with two young children rebuffed my offer with the words ‘No thanks. I don’t believe in education.’ He said it quite politely and moved on but I was rooted to the spot in surprise. It had never occurred to me that education is something you can choose to believe in or not. Like Father Christmas or the Easter Bunny.
But as the business has grown, I’ve noticed that he isn’t the only one. When offering free pre-schooler workshops in shopping centres, I lost count of how many times children in buggies pointed and reached for the colourful display of books while their parents glanced over, almost panicked and strode defiantly past. We talk worriedly of not wanting to pressure our children with extra learning though our kids are desperate to get started. ‘I’ve never used trigonometry in my real life,’ is a phrase I hear quite often.
But kids believe. They are very much still believers in learning. So why have we, as adults, lost faith in it? When the magic lifts and reality abounds, what is making us more opposers than champions of the oldest practice of all time?
1.The school curriculum isn’t fit for purpose
In this uncertain economic and political climate, where our children are likely to have a number of jobs rather than a steady career and with technology developing at a rate of knots, parents are (quite rightly) wondering how knowing what an ‘expanded noun phrase’ is, is going to set them up for life in the real world. The curriculum is still very much based on academia, which, unless you want to become a university professor, isn’t going to set you up with the transferable, ‘soft’ skills needed for the future. Maybe with more creativity, entrepreneurial and problem solving skills taught, parents would see more value in school.
Cuts to schools have had devastating effects, particularly on those children who most need it. For parents who have kids with educational needs, getting the right support in school has become nearly impossible. Only the most severe cases result in an EHCP (Educational Health Care Plan) leaving those with dyslexia, ADHD, aspergers and speech and language problems to fend for themselves. Not to mention the waiting lists for CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) which can be months and months when the child needs immediate help. You can see why parents are frustrated.
3. Concerns about pressure
Many parents I meet, are concerned on how education might be affecting their child and feel very adverse to pressurising them in any way. This is great, but it sometimes ends up with children thinking that learning is bad for them – which of course it isn’t! Children are very resilient and are naturally curious and willing to learn new things. If it’s the right level for them, they enjoy challenges, working with others and creating something amazing. Culprits for mental health issues are much more likely to be the modern phenomenons of video games, mobile phones and social media. Let’s trust learning as one of the good guys.
4. Learning as the opposite of fun
Similarly, it’s so easy to peg learning as the opposite of fun. ‘Do your learning, then you can have fun,’ we say regularly. But learning is fun! If done in the right way, kids would choose to learn over other activities because they gain so much out of it. Most kids love learning. I see it everyday, all the time. Let’s not take that away from them.
So let’s take a leaf out of our children’s books and re-ignite the joy in learning this year.This is the perfect time of year to believe in the magic of education. We can use these days to read books, play games, investigate and create. You never know… it may bring more gifts for our children than Santa.
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