Friday, January 2, 2015

Basic Education

Over the past few months I have become alarmed at what a waste of time Primary and Secondary Education is in New Zealand.  Don't get me wrong.  I value education.  I value the skills of reading, writing and numeracy.  But I think we send children to school for far too much time.  The net result is that we have a group of adults who are entertaining, rather than educating, the youth of this country.  And the minors have taken a greater importance than the majors.

For example, how often have you heard a teacher justify the use of computers in classrooms with the argument "We are preparing children for jobs that don't exist today."?  And have you analysed the fees (donations??) that you aren't obliged to pay, but are expected to pay anyway?  How much of the cost of schooling your children is on core subjects and how much goes to "co-curricula" activities?

As someone who works in IT my view of "computers in classrooms" is that they don't belong there.  The way they are used in school and even in University does not prepare young people for the workforce.  In my experience, those people who are the poorest at applying IT in their workplace are those who have been born since the advent of the PC.  These are the generation who have likely had a computer in their home and have had exposure to, if not immersion in, IT at school and University.  On the other hand there is a cadre of computer users who have gravitated from the "manual way of doing things" to computers who seem to have the right balance in apply technology to their and their employer's advantage.

My own education did not involve any use of computers until University level.  Back then it was mainframes and PDP-11s.  Now I manage IT and am involved in IT "right up to the gills".  None of my school teachers or University lecturers would ever have imagined the path my career has taken.

But they prepared me extremely well for the eventual path that I took.  And thanks must go to Mrs Crabb and Miss Knauf who laid the ground work.  These two teachers were the ones who gave me the ultimate skill that prepared me for all of life - Reading.  (I must give credit also to my parents who took an active part in my education and even prior to my enrolment at Primary School had done what all parents should).  [When I reflect, I think I have acquitted myself not too badly, considering I was completely deprived of a formal Early Childhood Education.  How did I ever cope?]

Quite simply, the only scholastic ability anyone needs is Reading.  With Reading and reading comprehension, you can self-educate in any discipline. With reading you can learn to write and you can learn mathematics.

So here's what I would like to see.  I would like to see a return to basic education.  The teaching of the 3Rs - Reading, Writing and Arithmetic.  Anecdotally I have heard that Primary School teachers admit that they could deliver the basic syllabus in 3 days a week.  All the rest of the time is taken up in co-curricula activity - art, music, drama, sport etc etc.  And a lot of potentially useful classroom time is consumed with behaviour management of kids whose parents are failing them.  All teachers are frustrated by the amount of administration and professional developmnent they have to undertake.

Why could we not have an option for parent to send their kids to school just for the basics - 3 days per week of intensive education on Reading, Writing and Arithmetic.

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