Is our current education system fit for the 21st Century?

My initial reaction would be ‘No’, and here are some of my reasons why…

I see students every week, each of them coming to me with some form of disillusionment with the school system. Many of them lack confidence in their ability to learn and too many times I hear them describe themselves as ‘dumb’ or ‘thick’. But this simply is not the case. Everyone CAN learn, but it’s about learning in the right way that suits them individually. The school environment and education system has become stale, rigid and uninspiring and it’s doing a disservice to many young people.

How can it be that children will spend 14 years of their lives in a learning environment, yet so many come away with very little to show for it? And I’m not just referring to grades; but also, basic skills that employers will be looking for. Many of these young adults also feel the same way; preferring to be given opportunities that are more practical and hands on, as opposed to classroom, academia-based learning.

In recent years, the Government introduced more and more testing for both students and teachers alike, setting a target-driven structure for schools to unwaveringly follow. These new structures take away time that could be focused upon useful, transferable skills that carry forward into the working world. More importantly, these tests do not necessarily demonstrate practical talent.

In fact, now more than ever, it’s not about whether you know the answer to the question, but whether you answered the question in a particular way that gets the mark. How can that be right, when in the working world there are often multiple ways to achieve the same end goal? Why does it have to be only one way in the education system?

The grading system is a conundrum at the best of times. Grades scored between 1 and 9, with 9 being the highest grade. In Maths and Science exams for students passing these subjects on the higher paper (versus the foundation paper) to get a 4 the pass rate is set at 21 points. Yet what is also bemusing is that the grades are spread across the year for all students in each examining board, so only a percentage of students with achieve any particular grade.

In the last 40 years, the world around us has changed beyond recognition, yet the curriculum and exam timetable have not evolved. In this age of information, especially with answers at our fingertips, there is less need for this kind of knowledge-based learning.

In the past, going on to university and obtaining a degree would lead to a golden career path, but that is no longer the case. Universities in themselves do not offer the same quality of courses, so there is further disparity between one degree and another. Unless the career path that is chosen requires specialist knowledge, university studies may not be of much benefit as it was once seen to be.

The emphasis placed upon academia in recent decades has also meant that there is a skills shortage. Not enough young people are being provided with useful, practical skills. In the working world the UK is crying out for skilled workers in different types of trades. I believe that the root of this problem lies in how our education system fails to nurture an individual’s natural skillset.

In my opinion, a major overhaul of the National Curriculum is needed. Students should be offered a broader range of subjects and given the opportunity to flourish where they feel their strengths lie. Critical thinking, problem solving, communication, collaboration and creativity skills will prove far more useful than a collection of academic subjects that will not be of practical use outside of a classroom. Education needs to be about children expanding their knowledge base and nurturing practical, employable growth, and not just having the ability to pass exams.


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