Can you teach joy? Well, you could certainly do a lot better than this

As the ATL warn of exam "drilling", our curriculum heads further into learning by rote

Share
Related Topics

As the school term – along with the piles of outgrown uniforms and the fetishisation of stationary purchases – scrambles into life once more, thousands of new A-level students are thinking about upping their grades. Their younger peers, preparing to face a winter of 7+, 11+ and 13+ exams, lay waste to pages of practice papers and costly manufactured test books. It is perhaps an old-fashioned question to ask of a curriculum that seems so hell-bent on endowing all children with the same eerie verisimilitude of knowledge but: where is the joy in all of this?

Alison Sherratt of the ATL proffered this very question earlier this week as a critique of regimented timetables and tests, which squash education into test-assessed corners and take no account of the different ways that children learn.

The eternal problem with expecting schools to cater to the needs of individual children and engender in every student a love of broad curriculum-based learning is that it is impossible. No teacher can be expected to teach multiple different lessons at once, not least in primary schools where class sizes are already ballooning over the 30 child mark in order to accommodate the 256,000 excess pupils expected by 2014. Moreover, I would hazard the statement that you can’t teach enjoyment.

The social value of knowledge for its own sake went out of date with the birth of industry – when entry to the top professions was no longer a matter of knowing your Greek and Latin and having a grasp of circuitous law books. But outdated or not, it’s an idea our culture and certainly our national curriculum (criticised in its most recent permutation for being “old-fashioned” and “memory-based”) still gives credence to.

There is a disjunction here: while Sherratt and the ASCL, which has questioned whether the new curriculum belongs in the 21st century, are calling for more space to enjoy education, the government are fostering what is essentially an traditionalist, Anglo-centric curriculum based on test scores and divisive free schools.

Perhaps Gove saw his tweaks to the curriculum as one form of promoting knowledge for its own sake - but patriotism, old-fashioned rote learning and a few slashes to modules and assessments at A-level are not going to elicit joy and self-confidence in today’s school children.

As it is, we have produced a population of over 1 million NEETs, 33 per cent of whom consider themselves depressed and 40 per cent of whom feel they are not part of society. There is more at stake here than just the joy of learning; it is a whole attitude that we are instilling when we educate. Until drastic changes are made to the curriculum from the bottom up and our culture ceases to perpetuate the idea that stress equals success, the stats won’t change.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Mosul falls: Talk of Iraq retaking the town, held by IS since June, is unconvincing  

Isis on the run? The US portrayal is very far from the truth

Patrick Cockburn
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk