Posted by: Natalie | May 10, 2012

Broken Education

“Those who can, teach.”

We’ve heard the line thousands of times. Some who don’t work in the Education sector see teachers as whiny so-and-sos who don’t appreciate the pay and holidays which other lines of employment simply can’t afford. After all, what have we teachers to complain about?! We finish at 3.30 don’t we? Rock up at ten to nine? Have 17,000 days off work a year?! Don’t get me started. When you break it down, a teacher’s hourly rate is shocking. I am yet to find a full time teacher who has either a life or sanity. And why? Its not because we don’t try hard enough or suffer a lack of efficiency. Far from it. Some of the best educators I know are the most ridiculously organised and never-endingly hard working, to the point of sacrifice of health and relationships. The problem? Our education system is broken.

I have said it over and over again. Government after government has simply paper over cracks in a crumbling infrastructure with so many lines of red tape and pointless pieces of paper that the UK education system is staring to look like a badly crafted paper mache project. The problem is, the balloon inside deflated long ago and we are running out of PVA glue. OK, this metaphor maybe on the brink of getting out of hand, but you realise my sentiment surely. We run a vastly outdated system in this country which no longer provides any real quality to anyone other than the extremely talented. Coupled with a magazine culture of instant stardom and a general Britishness of complacency, we have right royally screwed the generations. I include my own education in this. Children of my generation were taught subjects such as mathematics by teachers throwing Peak Maths books at us and letting us ‘get on with it’. It took me two years to complete a stage five book. Not because I was dumb at Numeracy, quite the reverse, at that age nothing much was expected of me. By teachers that is. I was simply to turn the next page when I had completed the one before. So I took my time.

Once secondary education began, I fell into a black hole created by the most evil of Maths teachers; an ex-navy boxer who bullied his pupils into mathematical submission. I didn’t thrive. I lost interest. I was defeated.

So, some of the crack papering may have improved quality, for some, in the short term but the lasting, damaging effects are starting to be seen. We have a country of people with 2:1 degrees (myself included) and no practical skill. We are told there is only one way to be and one way of thinking throughout our education, that to be academic is the only path and what has it done for us? We have a nation of defeatests. We have a nation of children growing up who know exactly how to answer a three mark reading question, or find solutions to algebraic equations but no independent though. No ‘divergent thinking’. My personal belief is that we need to start again. We need to scrap the rubbish that is holding back a once great nation and torturing teachers the length and breadth of our country. We need to strip back the broken layers of gummed together codswallop to rediscover what is really important. In such a time as this with a battered economy and an inability as a country to produce anything of worth beyond reality TV shows, desperate measures are required. Our children will never become the next inspirational generation if they are on their knees under the weight of standardised tests.

Back in November, I attended a truly enlightening training course during which we were shown an RSA Animate video. The RSA is a fellowship is an:

enlightenment organisation committed to finding innovative practical solutions to today’s social challenges. Through its ideas, research and 27,000-strong Fellowship it seeks to understand and enhance human capability so we can close the gap between today’s reality and people’s hopes for a better world.

This video in particular is not only an engaging animation, but a eye opening vision into Changing Education Paradigms. Delivered, I believe, in 2010, Sir Ken Robinson (an international educational advisor to governments) clearly states why our education system, to be crude, is utter crap. However, he puts it far more eloquently. It is an extraordinary talk which inspires me so very much. This man needs to break the system, needs to open the eyes and un-clog the ears of the nations politicians. Not everyone can be an academic Etonian with a first class honours in PPE – precious few actually want to. But until we fix our education, until we update our methods of learning and realise a creative future, there may be little else to work towards. And only then, maybe, just maybe, teachers can finally show they CAN do their job. Do it well and have a life.

Watch the clip. I guarantee it will resonate.



  1. What a fascinating way to examine the education system and work on ways for innovation and change. Ps the cartoonist is amazing!

  2. I loved your post! I am/was a teacher in London and I too feel disillusioned with the system we teach in. I feel like I know what works (creativity, independent thinking and lots of real books to start with….) and yet, the system forces me to teach to a test, not matter how many times they change the curriculum. Science, Maths and Literacy can never be inspiring if it all ends with a multiple choice question!
    Btw, I love Sir Ken and this RSA presentation…have you read The Element?

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