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The importance of free thinking

one are the days of "why miss, why?" According to a Welsh study, children have been brainwashed into thinking that learning means being seen to answer questions rather than asking them. Delegates at a "Focus on Learning" conference at the University of Wales, Lampeter, reported last week by our sister paper TES Cymru, were told by one expert that children today think of schools as places to work rather than learn - where young people go to watch old people work, as one Scottish head recently put it.

The importance of creating free-thinking learners was a recurrent theme.

It is a sad indictment of our test and target-driven culture that, in many schools, the joy of discovery is being replaced too often by pressure to achieve. So three cheers for the headteacher who felt compelled to rebel by encouraging pupils to put down their pens to talk, question and listen rather than write. Success cannot be measured in ink alone.

As our comment pages will observe next week, we need to take account of these issues if pupils are to be motivated to learn - and, indeed, if teachers are to be motivated to teach. We might not go so far as one of the speakers at the Welsh conference who suggested that "school should be a work-free zone", whatever that means. But if it means schools should be places where people come to learn and come to appreciate the enjoyment of learning, we would say amen to that.

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