In the latest Sun-Herald in Sydney, there is an eight page spread about how parents should choose an independent school. obviously it has had significant input from various independent schools as well as including a 39-point checklist for things to look for when choosing the right school for your child. It spoke of looking at the individual needs of the child, the extra curricular opportunities,as well as the policies in regard to religion, homework and bullying. Countless articles and advertisements spoke of how schools value the students’ individuality in their quest to achieve their potential.
Nothing much to write home about here you might think, let alone enough ammunition for a blog piece!
Then I read the piece regarding accelerated learning, and in thirteen words it shone a light on what I believe is a glaring flaw in the education of our children as it stands in the majority of schools today.
Indeed they will, and not only underperform in the particular field that they are strong, but elsewhere in their studies/school/ and possibly life.
The problem I have is not with the statement itself, rather I take issue with the way in which we interpret and act on the statement. In schools we run accelerated learning programs for our “brightest” students.
Accelerated learning is when schools react to the ability of the child, and teaches them with regard to their aptitude rather than their age. So a Year 7 student could well be studying at a Year 9 level, if they are considered “bright” enough.
Accelerated learning takes place predominantly in maths and the languages – that is to say schools identify “brightness” with aptitude in these fields.
And because schools do… generally speaking, so do parents.
By identifying “brightness” in the narrow band offered by academics, they dismiss intelligence in other fields as insignificant. How many of us have been told (or told someone) “Don’t waste your time on that, you won’t get a job doing it…” As if intelligence can only be quantified by earning potential.
Now I’m not saying that accelerated learning is a bad thing. On the contrary, I think it is a great idea. It just needs to be applied across the board.
Now more than ever, parents and schools need to identify exactly how are their children intelligent, and they need to be given the flexibility in the curriculum to push these students in the same way we do the gifted mathematician.
I wonder how many talented artists, musicians, poets, writers, sculptors, carpenters, mechanics, acrobats, dancers, comedians or actors are underperforming right now because their talents have not been recognised or validated by their school or parents? Moreover, how many of these potentially brilliant individuals are lost to their field in their early years through lack of recognition or validation? Imagine if accelerated learning in these particular fields was the norm rather than the exception. Imagine the levels of engagement in their learning across the student population.
The Moral Imperative
Too many people end up doing things they hate. They endure what they do rather than enjoy it. (Thanks Sir Ken!)
I firmly believe that this plays a significant role (along with other factors) in the rising levels of depression. Furthermore I believe they have ended up in this situation because of their education. (See my last blog entry)
If I’m right, then the moral imperative for education and parents in the 21st century is to help students identify, nurture and validate their strengths and passions regardless of their academic or non-academic nature.
The World Health Organisation tells us we are set on a course for a depression epidemic… this could just head it off.
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