Reading: / Identifying a Writer’s Views/Claims (Yes/No/Not Given) / Part 4

Weakness of the school system

  1. By attempting to fit in as much as possible, the school day is continually being added to. In many ways, this would appear to be a good idea, as our knowledge and understanding of the world is always growing and it would seem logical to incorporate this into schools. The reality, however, has some decided drawbacks. There is a growing feeling amongst many that the modern school curriculum, in an effort to teach as many varied subjects as possible, is actually teaching students less. It seems that by constantly adding to what should be taught in the classroom, the classes are less focused, not offering the deeper learning that institutions perhaps should.
  2. With classes sometimes only 30 minutes long, the overwhelming amount of information teachers are required to present often only gives students time to learn facts, not to think in any great detail about what they are being presented with. The problem is that students are not getting the opportunity to absorb what they are being taught as the curriculum expands in order to keep what has already been taught and supplement it with everything new that comes along. The weaknesses of such a system are clear – well informed though such students may be, there is the risk of an increasing number of graduates who have no real creative or intellectual ability. By denying students the opportunity to sit and think their way through problems, or even consider their own opinion, some schools are not always providing a truly educational atmosphere. There are, of course, certain aspects of education which need to be taught by simply inputting the information. Basic mathematics, for example. But there are many other subjects which could be best learned by having an opportunity to think and discuss what is being taught. Literature, writing and the social sciences are good examples of subjects which cannot be considered as ‘covered’ by a mass of information without the opportunity to discuss, debate or consider meaning or implications. There are also important social skills to be learned during such periods of open discussion, skills which are not addressed by an endless flow of teacher-centred information.
  3. Teachers themselves have also voiced concerns about the amount of information they are required to impress upon their students. There is a feeling in many educational establishments that students are no longer being educated, but taught how to pass tests. In a world where academic success is too often measured by examination results, this is a serious concern. If there is too much information to simply be memorised and not enough time to truly assimilate it, what happens to students who fail to meet the grade? By current standards, they are failures, yet they may have great potential in areas not covered by the test and there are many students who, despite clear intellectual ability, simply do not perform well in tests. Again, the problem is one of focus, as education authorities are looking at the outcome of schooling rather than the content presented in the class.
  4. It is here that many teachers feel the situation could be addressed at a local level. By giving more discretion to teachers, school courses could be tailored to suit the students rather than tailoring students to meet ever-expanding course requirements. In addition, by running a curriculum that gives options rather than defines an entire course, considerably more freedom would be possible. As it is, progression through most primary and secondary schools is regimented, and there is little room for students to identify and develop their own skills and strengths. If material could be chosen on the basis of its merits rather than simply because it has been put in the curriculum, then what is selected may be taught to a depth that would serve some purpose. There is, of course, a counter-argument, which claims that such open guidelines could lead to vast differences in standards between schools. What one teacher may see as essential for a student’s education, another may see as irrelevant, and this will result in students with widely different educational strengths.
  5. With such a high-pressure learning environment, there are also a number of social aspects to schooling which need to be considered. The increased student workload cannot be covered in the classroom alone for the simple reason that there is not enough time in the average school week, and much of this extra workload has been pushed into the realm of homework. At its best, homework should be the opportunity to look in greater detail at what has been studied. In other words, to actually think about it and its relevance. The reality, however, is often very different. Concerned parents and overextended students are finding that homework is taking an increasingly large part of a student’s evening, cutting into time many feel should be spent as part of a child’s social education. Other social pressures have compounded the situation, as many of the areas of educating a young child which should be the responsibility of the parents have ill-advisedly become the school’s responsibility. Drug awareness and health issues, for example, are occupying an increasingly large part of the school day.
  6. Many people believe that we should be teaching less, but teaching it better, and it is here that they think a solution can be found. Yet the process of rewriting a curriculum to incorporate only that which is essential but can be well learned would take far longer than most educational authorities have, and would be considered by many to be a ‘regressive’ step. Changes in the curriculum have largely been motivated by changes in the nature of employment, as job mobility demands that people know something about considerably more areas than were traditionally necessary. A little about a lot allows for the job mobility which has become so common. No matter what the final verdict may be, one thing is for sure – change will be slow, and not always for the best.

Questions 1 -5

Do the following statements agree with the views of the writer?

In boxes 1 -5 on your answer sheet write

Write YES if the statement agrees with the writer
NO if the statement does not agree with the writer
NOT GIVEN if there is no information about this in the passage

1.Classes are often too short.

2.No subjects can be comprehensively learned without time to discuss and debate the facts.

3.Tests are a fair measure of ability.

4.Schools are trying to be responsible for too many aspects of a child’s education.

5.Future changes in the curriculum will improve the situation.