Every child is entitled to …

There are lots of ways of thinking about education … consider compulsory education (so in the western world, usually up to around age 16).

You can think of it in terms of content that the government requires teachers to deliver to a child (“you must be taught fractions / geometry / about ox-bow lakes” – NB of course you may not learn fractions etc) – which seems to come up a lot in phrases like “delivering the curriculum”.

You can also think of it in terms of things that a child is entitled to find out about – for example, every child is entitled to find out about proof, you don’t just leave the lower achievers practicing fractions forever.

As well as (or instead of) content, you can think about education in terms of processes … or in terms of helping a child to achieve their potential (whatever that means – that could mean almost anything).

Yesterday my classmate Steve gave a brief talk (so did I – we have student led seminars fairly frequently; a 10-15 min talk followed by about 15 mins of discussion is the idea) which was mostly about maths, science & the transition from school to University – but in amongst it all he set out what he believes about education, which is:

Every child is entitled to:

  • succeed
  • get stuck
  • be happy

I really like that.

I think this is a really good formulation of what good educational experiences boil down to. Succeeding and getting stuck are both extremely important, and are often denied to pupils (perhaps because they never succeed, perhaps because they can always do things too easily). And it’s very hard to characterise some educational thingy (note my technical language here …) as being successful if the children are never happy.

What do you think? What is education? Is it a set of skills that a pupil should learn? Is it content that they should be exposed to? Is it all intended to make more skilled workers for the government?

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