Pullyman: Shine a light on education

Michael Cowin

Michael Cowin

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I’ve just been listening to the news on BBC Radio 4 and one of the hot stories is that in the UK the numeracy and literacy rate of school leavers is one of the lowest in any of the so called ‘educated societies’ of the world.

Every year, there are hundreds of young men and women leaving school after 10 or 12 years barely able to read, write or manage simple arithmetic.

Why am I not surprised? I wouldn’t mind betting that there won’t be many immigrant children on the list.

Recently, I’ve been watching a short series of documentaries that had been built round the railway network in India.

Millions of people are living in absolute poverty.

They live from hand to mouth, and they save every penny possible to send their kids to school. They know, and their children know, the value of education.

When I was in my early 20s, I worked for a couple of years in the office of the Douglas Abattoir in Lake Road.

My job was to calculate the returns due to the farmers from the sale of their sheep, cattle and pigs. Each animal was graded according to its quality, and weighed. The value was simply the price per pound of the particular grade multiplied by the weight.

The education I received from the Sunshine School and in Demesne Road boys’ school was the ground work that had prepared me for that early job. The secondary education at Ballakermeen and the High School was the icing on the cake.

We learned our times tables by standing up in front of the class and reciting them.

We learned how to spell, and we learned how to string a few words together in the correct order. We were taught how to read and write, and no child was excluded, if you fell behind, you were helped.

In my book, you were what you were going to be, by the time you were 11.

There are always going to be some children who are brighter and more receptive than others, and there are always going to be some who will find things difficult, but if any child goes into secondary school without learning the basics, something is wrong.

I was listening to a discussion on the wireless on education and teaching methods.

From what I was able to glean, it was considered the old ways, learning your tables and reciting poetry that you had to learn, was too restrictive. It stilted the mind, and prevented the pupil from thinking creatively.

Whereas if the child is freed from the routine of remembering long lists of facts it will improve their ability to consider problems and work things out. That idea obviously works well.

My childhood was secure, disciplined and structured. I was part of a family unit, and a social regime that worked together, with my well being in mind.

I’m sure none of the parties involved thought about what was going on, it was just the way things were done.

Not all kids today are yobs and layabouts, but some of them are children of parents whose outlook on life leaves a lot to be desired.

These parents are the product of a era when there was plenty of everything to go round. Why work when we’ve got the ‘social’ to fall back on? And you know the old saying, easy come, easy go. In real life, if you haven’t earned it, you don’t appreciate it.

From what I glean from the papers and the telly, it would seem staff morale and job satisfaction in some inner city schools are at rock bottom.

This is one weekly offering that does not end on a light note. No country can refuse to help the folk who are trying to find a better life for their families, but their integration into the western world will not be easy.

An ageing population, a stretched-to-the-limit NHS, and a fragmenting social structure, does not make me feel very relaxed. What about you?

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