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The social value of knowledge for its own sake went out of date with the birth of industry – when entry to the top professions was no longer a matter of knowing your Greek and Latin and having a grasp of circuitous law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 But outdated or not, it’s an idea our culture and certainly our national curriculum (criticised in its most recent permutation for being “old-fashioned” and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

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

HR Advisor - East Anglia - Field-based

£35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: To be considered for this position you will n...

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Jihadist militants leading away captured Iraqi soldiers in Tikrit, Iraq, in June  

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Robert Fisk
India's philosopher, environmental activist, author and eco feminist Vandana Shiva arrives to give a press conference focused on genetically modified seeds on October 10, 2012  

Meet Vandana Shiva: The deserving heir to Mahatma Ghandi's legacy

Peter Popham
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home