What does education mean to me?

I don’t know if this is the inner Teach First-er in me but throughout my training and career (so far), I have genuinely clung to the belief that every child, regardless of their socio-economic background should have access to a ‘good’ education. Although the definition of ‘good’ itself makes me uncomfortable. What does ‘good’ even mean? Are children achieving a certain number of GCSEs considered having had a ‘good’ education? Can becoming confident and kind members of society, regardless of grades gained, be classified as having had a good education? Or is education nothing but merely a political game?

The more I think on this, the more I find that we are expecting children to align with middle-class English values instead of preparing them as individuals to step into roles that will suit them best – be it vocational courses, further/higher education or the world of work. Embedding values such as obedience, aspiration, respect, getting a ‘good’ degree from a ‘good’ university, are expected of all students and vocational training and courses are disregarded as less respectable. Not to say that all students shouldn’t be expected to embed those values or that all vocational training/courses are seen in a negative light.

I too, am guilty of striving sometimes for results for the students I have taught, reflected from my own experiences of being at school. The value of getting ‘good’ GCSEs, A-Levels and then a ‘good’ degree always held higher importance through my teenage years over pursuing an alternate path (technical/vocational training). Perhaps always seeing qualifications as a key to open the next door in life is the way I was brought up both at home and at school. Perhaps my teachers also wanted to embed these middle-class British values in me.

However, through the years, I have learnt that this ideology may not be the right path for a lot of students entering the classroom and hence what education means to me has shifted slightly. It now stands at the belief that every child, regardless of their socio-economic background, should have access to an education that allows them to find their voice. Furthermore, education should embed a belief in the child that, as long as they are willing to put in the work, they can achieve anything.

The latter has come from hearing, on several occasions, students say things like ‘my dad is a plumber, I don’t need GCSEs because he didn’t and he is earning loads’ or ‘that You-Tuber makes make-up videos, that’s what I will do and earn lots of money. I don’t need to be at school or do GCSEs’. Their naivety gives them the impression that this money/fame/respect is just given to you rather than earning it through hard work.

Secondly, the emphasis placed on tests and exams can often override what school should be for (in my opinion). I believe that learning to love learning as well as emphasising the idea of becoming life long learners should be embedded into the curriculum and school values/ethos. I have made this a mission of mine through demonstrating my love for my subject (Maths) and my passion for reading books. It is often said that children will not do what you say, they will do what they see you do.

Lastly, I see education as a way of creating society through embedding positive moral values and learning community responsibility. Exposing students to a sense of community within their school (school council, prefects, etc.) allows them to contribute to society (school) and in turn, make the world we live in a better place.

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