Saturday, 14 January 2017

Education and the Parent Factor

I was reading the latest complaints emanating from the teachers' unions, this time about the increase in class size numbers. There is no doubt that schools, just like hospitals, are having to deal with successive governments' relaxed attitudes about unfettered immigration, which has pushed many of our public services to breaking point. This stated, I am not convinced that teaching a class of forty is that much more onerous than dealing with one of thirty. There are more books to mark, of course, but in terms of lesson delivery it matters not one jot. It is far too simplistic to say that big is bad and small is good. Small class sizes in themselves do not raise standards in education.

I watched a documentary on BBC 2 last Sunday about educational success in South Korea. Three British pupils spent three days in the Korean system, being taught in classes of over forty. As in most parts of Asia, the standards of teaching and learning in South Korea are way ahead of what we manage here in the UK.

Why? Principally because Korean parents take an active interest in their children's education and are wholly supportive of their local school. This is often in stark contrast to what happens here in the UK, where there is a growing number of parents who show little or no interest in their child's education.

What's more, there is also a substantial tranche who deliberately undermine their child's school's authority. These parents complain publicly about too much homework or too little homework; too much discipline or not enough discipline; they express dissatisfaction with certain rules which they then publicly challenge. Why can't he wear his hair in this style? Why can't she wear her skirt in this manner? etc etc. There are even parents who have challenged their local school in a court of law after having deliberately disobeyed school policy by taking their child away on holiday during term time. More and more parents are chipping away at our schools' authority and doing it publicly.

The result is the pupils follow the parents' example by challenging the rules of the school and not only by ignoring their teachers' instructions but also by being unpleasantly rude and obnoxious in the process.

In Korea we were informed by the BBC 2 documentary that 'the king and the teacher are equal in the eyes of society.' As a result, Korean top graduates are keen to become teachers and are able to inspire the next generation to work hard to achieve their goals. Here in the UK teaching is no longer considered as a viable career option by top graduates. What's more, there is an annual haemorrhage of in-service professionals, as facing a daily barrage of recalcitrant, uninterested pupils takes its toll.

If we are ever to restore the once proud reputation of the British education system, we not to stop faffing around about peripheral matters, such as class size, and address the real issues:-

I say to parents, if you have a real issue of concern about an important school matter, such as your child not being taught properly or being bullied, address this issue, via a private meeting, with a head of year or form teacher. Under no circumstance involve the press. Any negative publicity about the school will damage your child's education. Publicly support the school and its rules on every matter. Even if you think your child has been unfairly treated, do not openly criticize the authority of the school - do it behind closed doors. Take an interest in your child's progress; spend some time asking him or her about homework etc. It doesn't take too much time.

With full parental support we could once again see top graduates attracted to the teaching profession here in the UK. The relation of an inspirational teacher to a pupil comes just below the relation of a parent to a child and our schools might once again be full of inspirational professionals.  What's more, bad teachers will no longer be able to damage children's future prospects.

Make no mistake, parents who undermine the running of our schools have a far more deleterious effect on children's educational progress than any increase in class sizes.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with so much of your arguments here. Parents must not, and should never have been allowed to, abrogate responsibility for their child's education.
    On the other hand, schools must be open to challenge and scrutiny from involved and engaged parents. If this is to be a collaborative affair, collaboration, including respectful challenge, is a prerequisite. The days of school being considered the only arbiter of good taste are gone for so many reasons.