According to an Observer report (20/5/2007) children are needing more and more counselling and medical attention as a result of the exam-ridden culture that is Britain today.
I trained as a teacher in the reviled sixties, when the campaign for comprehensive education was alive and well, and before the onslaught on schools and other public institutions insisting standards had to be driven up. I would never argue that there wasn’t room for improvement in education provision, but those who cried “education, education” and “education” have had other agendas. The National Curriculum was a tool to impose a particular view on state schools. The private sector continued to do what it liked. The “nationalist” curriculum was more of a political weapon to fight against the “multiculturalism” that was creeping into the system. While this might have been expected from a Tory government, the take up and intensification of the onslaught by New Labour wasn’t.
The insistence on an ethnically “pure” curriculum has duly alienated many young people. Those who forebears had endured the excesses of colonialism had to come to a common understanding that the subservient role their ancestors played was natural, part of the scheme of things. This may not be so apparent, but to see the view at its crudest a visit to the expatriate community in Zimbabwe, for example, will demonstrate its existence. There is still a steadfast refusal to see or understand the African past even when there is evidence staring people in face such as the zimbabwes which exist across the country. The testing, examining culture has succeeded in keeping an understanding of our society at bay. The social consequences are becoming more and more apparent.
We would have hope that Gordon Brown would have the capacity to understand as he proclaims education as his credo. All he can do though is offer a cry for yet another mechanistic imposition “numeracy”. The focus on “literacy” has imposed hours of boredom on young people unless their teachers have had the strength and imagination to rise above it with materials that are both relevant and appealing. This month in primary schools year 2 children are having their SATs exams. Teachers are struggling to cope with its administration. There’s no time to teach for enlightenment, only coach for the children to perform like seals. Parents will be waiting breathlessly for the result. Those that do well will be encouraged those that don’t marked for life. And Alan Johnson is favourite for Deputy Leader.
The academies and other proposals from the outgoing Blair will take us further in this direction. How much it is costing the health services to tackle the situation the government has created itself is unknown. Is there anyone out there who will bring it to a close?