To be honest, until signing up to take part in this month’s #blogsync I hadn’t thought about the purpose of education since my PGCE. Over the years education had become something I was a part of: a large machine of which I was just a cog, unable to see what happened to the finished product I had spent years shaping; unable to control how the machine worked and who controlled it. However, having spent the last couple of weeks thinking about this question I have come to realise that there is no one answer.
At the moment, with political one up man ship in full swing at party conferences, education seems to be something to score points and votes with. It seems that the profession I love has only one purpose, getting Mr. Gove in the media spotlight. Sadly, the reality of the previous point is enough to dishearten and depress, but as always a student comes along to brighten my day and lift my sagging spirits.
Last week a year 9 student of mine reminded me of the real purpose of education. Having been one of my challenging students in year 8, I have to admit that I was not looking forward to attempting to keep him in the room & getting him to put pen to paper. For some context, he is low ability and low confidence which causes him to give up and lash out rather than risk failure. But this year something was different. In our first lesson he worked hard, he stayed out of trouble and we actually got on. When talking to him I discovered that not only is he desperate for a C, he’s also desperate to prove to his parents, teachers and himself thay he can work hard, behave well & get his C in English. This to me, shows a real purpose of education. And what’s more important is that he has found a purpose in education.
And this new purpose in education should help him to find purpose in other areas of his life and future. it should help him find more confidence in his academic abilities and his ability to stick with the things that he finds hard and find a solution. His discovery in the purpose of eduction is already starting to rebuild the trust and relationship with his parents, so he tells me. He is seeing the immediate benefits in education. But we, as his teachers, are seeing the future benefits for him: good grades, good college / vocational courses, less detentions and good relationships with the adults in the school. But these arent the most important benefits of discovering the purpose of education and true educationalists know this. The true benefits that this boy is beginning to discover are the happier days in school; an improved self confidence; a sense of self belief and the ability to recognise mistakes as merely a bump in the road, not the car crash they had been previously. All of this will get him what he needs to survive in ‘the real world!’
Qualifications and grades do open doors in young people’s futures, but I have to believe that they are not the sole purpose of education. Sometimes the politics, the paperwork and the target data beat me down and I lose sight of what I know to be true: if all I’ve given a child is an exam grade, I’ve failed as their teacher.
The purpose of education is to allow all children to enter the ‘real world’ with fortitude, the ability to tackle challenges and social skills. To help guide them in becoming well rounded, thoughtful & caring members of society. ALONGSIDE all the skills and knowledge they need to get their best grade in their exams.
To steal from Jerry Springer (and not just for the usual role play scenario!), my final though that reminds me of so many troubled and challenging students I’ve taught:
Education has a redemptive quality that never abandons a child and always welcomes them back, no matter what has happened previously, as long as they are ready to believe in themselves and try their hardest.