Hedonistic students too dependent

Jon Slater

Teachers are creating a dependency culture among young people by spoon-feeding them to ensure they pass exams, according to research published today.

Pressure to hit targets is forcing staff to give up their leisure time to help pupils complete coursework, the study of teachers and lecturers found.

It says that demotivated young people rely on the safety net of their teachers' support and the knowledge they can resit exams.

By contrast, the obsession with celebrities, with "an emphasis on instant gratification and hedonistic lifestyle" has encouraged many to place their social life above educational achievement or employment prospects.

One teacher said: "Their goals are shorter and they live for the day. They don't think ahead - not even to exams.

"We've produced a generation that thinks of surface stuff." Teachers complained that the education system has become mechanistic with a focus on league tables at the expense of inspiring young people to learn.

Curriculum reform for 16 to 18-year-olds with the introduction of formal exams in the first year of sixth-form was blamed for increasing pressure on students.

"Instead of encouraging young people to be self-starters and independent thinkers, many teachers fear the education system is contributing to a youth dependency culture," the report said.

The research was commissioned by the North East Assembly and is based on focus groups with more than 100 teachers and further education lecturers in the area.

One lecturer told researchers: "They (young people) are spoon-fed from school for the sake of results and tables.

"One student told me to do the assignment (for him) because it was my job that depended on the funding the college got for them going."

Another teacher said: "They have zero thinking skills and do lots of cut and paste from the web for assignments."

Teachers report sacrificing their own time to support students' work, even though many still struggle to find enough hours in the day to do proper lesson preparation and provide pastoral advice.

Teachers also acknowledged that gaps in their own knowledge hindered their ability to give appropriate career advice.

Even teachers who have a specialist role in advising young people on continuing education have a very limited knowledge of vocational opportunities.

Some FE staff also admitted their knowledge of vocational courses needed updating.

Despite government attempts to raise the esteem of vocational routes, teachers admitted they would always advise pupils to choose an academic rather than vocational pathway.

"Teachers have an expectation that young people should go to university and so young people go but don't know what they want to study and don't know what they want to do when they get their degree," the report said.

Maggie Scott, Association of Colleges curriculum adviser, said: "The current curriculum is not appropriate for many young people and we need far greater flexibility to create independent and motivated learners.

"The AoC has consistently argued that any education assessment system based solely on examination results and league tables will provide a very limited picture of student achievement."

What teachers think: the role of teachers in shaping young people's attitudes to education and employment in North East England is available from www.northeastassembly.gov.uk

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Jon Slater

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