Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Schools -- too focused on the academic?

Recently, Mama Mia published an article saying that parents expect teachers to be substitute parents. The article said that teachers should be responsible for things like grammar and mathematics, while parents should 'mould the manner of the child.' You can find the original article here:

To a certain extent, I agree. Parents do need to take responsibility for their own children. It is inappropriate and unfair to expect teachers to raise their kids. And any parent who leaves the raising of their child to a school cannot complain if they don't turn out the way they want them to.

However, I do think the focus schools place on the academic is not doing our children any favours. No matter how well you know your reading, writing and arithmetic, if you don't know how to get along with others, behave in certain situations and deal with your emotions, you're not going to go far. In fact, it is these life skills that actually the more important than academic results. They help people to succeed in a career and contribute to society. It also affects how people treat our planet, the people in it - and themselves. Ultimately, a person's test results will not bring themselves or others much joy. How they live in the world will.

So why not just leave that part of life to the parents and let the schools focus on the academic part?

First, children spend six hours in school, more when you add in travelling time and homework. Very few parents would have the time to spend six hours teaching their children values and life skills, once this time for school is taken out. Admittedly, these kinds of life skills are often woven throughout other activities. But even then, children will always receive more academic training than they do values or life skills training.

Also, the compulsory nature of school and the focus on tests like NAPLAN tells kids that academic performance is important. They are unlikely to feel the same about what their parents are trying to teach them. The weight given to academic results actually changes children's values, because they have been taught from a very early age that it's how well you read and write that really matters in life. Children need to be taught that their behaviours, values and attitudes matter too. No matter how much a parent tries to instil this in their children, if they're hearing opposite messages from elsewhere, then children will have difficulty fully accepting this.

Perhaps most importantly, teachers have far more opportunity to see how a child behaves with other people than the parents do. They are better placed to notice a problem and guide them through a situation. One of my sons is very shy and has trouble making friends. While I am constantly working with him on this, I am limited by the fact that, when he's around people of his own age, I'm not usually around. As there are children with learning difficulties, there are also children with social difficulties. It would be good to see them get the same assistance and guidance as those who don't do well on tests.

I don't want to suggest that schools are only focused on the academic. Schools do care about values. They do deal with behaviour problems. At least the schools my kids go to do. I'm sure other schools are the same. But in a world where schools are judged on their NAPLAN results, obviously they're going to pay more attention to academic learning than life learning. And in my opinion, life learning is more important. 

Ultimately, it is the parent's responsibility to raise their children. And I for one don't want to leave all that important training to a school. However, the saying goes that it takes a village to raise a child. Shouldn't then both parents and schools be involved in ensuring that we raise children who have all the necessary skills to help them succeed in life? A school must be judged by more than how well their students do in tests. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Liz, that's an interesting thought. Can you have a look at my blog Painting A River? It's reflections on my faith, as a recent Catholic convert.




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