Sunday, 22 February 2009

I’ll spell it out: if children can’t read, lives are ruined

Full Article:

This country’s education system is a betrayal of this country’s children. It blunts their intelligence, narrows their perspectives and blasts their future prospects. How often does that need to be said? Of course it is not universally true; many children defy the system, one way or another. But the point is that the system is bad. If the word “institutionally” means anything, this country’s education system is institutionally unfit for purpose.
Those who assume that I am exaggerating, as columnists do, should consider the interim report published last week by the Cambridge Primary Review, the biggest independent inquiry into state primary school education in England for 40 years, led by Professor Robin Alexander. After three years of exhaustive research by his team, he says “our argument is that [primary school children’s] education, and to some degree their lives, are impoverished if they have received an education that is so fundamentally deficient”.
At last a knight in shining educational armour seems to have come galloping over the hill. His review finds that the curriculum has been politicised, that the education department and the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority have been excessively prescriptive in their micro-management of schools, that their focus on “literacy” and numeracy and testing has squeezed out other learning, and that children are being denied a broad and rich curriculum - with history, geography, music, art and drama the greatest losses. Alexander insists the arts and humanities “help to hold the line between civilisation and philistinism” but “in these severely utilitarian and philistine times” this argument “no longer cuts much ice”.

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