A brighter future begins at school

2nd September 2005 at 01:00
For the last eight years, The TESS has mounted a conference with Edinburgh City Council. The theme last autumn was "a vision for Scotland in 2020" and 16 to 18-year-olds across the country were invited to offer ideas for a motivated, inclusive society. Here are extracts from the two winning submissions

Julie Wilson, Liberton High, Edinburgh:

"Imagine an education system where there are no limits, no barriers. Pupils will not fear unemployment or the exam system. This can be achieved. It is a realistic vision. It can be achieved through a number of things: a fairer exam system producing better results, and better-equipped schools paid for by the Scottish Parliament, not private companies where the schools are driven by profit margins. The end of privileges towards private schools is essential.

In 2020 I would like to see modern technology being used in every school.

Students will have a laptop each and will be taught how to use the new technology. This will greatly assist learning; it will be a teaching tool that teachers will be able to use.

What can the Government do to stop priority being given to private schools? The best solution would be to abolish private schools. Why should it matter how much your parents earn? For too long private school pupils have been hijacking the better jobs. But I can't ever see private schools going away.

So what we have to ensure is that our schools look better and are better equipped.

Please note, I say look and better equipped. I'm not condemning the teaching. The teaching in state schools is fantastic. But the Government needs schools that look good and run well. Parents judge schools on looks.

We need to have schools that look good and are well equipped so pupils in state schools have the same opportunities with modern technology as private-school pupils have.

Pupils need to be given an even playing field. In 2020 it won'tmatter which school you went to or what tie you wore. All that will matter is if you did well or not. Everyone will have the same chances. My vision for 2020 is that students will not fear unemployment as there will b e jobs that everyone can do because they have the right grades in subjects they enjoyed.

Imagine that pupils don't fear unemployment. Imagine an exam system which students get good results from. Imagine an education system that is no longer corrupted by the class system."

Alison Sneddon, James Gillespie's High, Edinburgh:

"Prejudices are formed from an early age and can become ingrained in our psyche. The only way to eliminate them from our community is to teach children about the diverse mix of people with whom they share their environment.

Prejudices stem from fear, caused by misconceptions and a lack of knowledge and awareness of things that are different to what we are used to.

Providing children with factual information about their immediate and wider surroundings that was unavailable to previous generations should discourage similar attitudes from being formed, preventing these all too familiar divisions in society.

Schools should be able to provide an environment where children are able to formulate their own opinions and ideals about the world, locally, nationally and internationally, and learn how to express them while simultaneously respecting opposing views. In theory, it seems obvious that children should be taught about their role in society and how to interact with each other on different levels, but in practice it can be difficult to know how to implement this.

In order for children to learn how to respect each other, they should be able to get to know their classmates as individuals rather than representatives of an ethnic minority or alternative way of life. Treating children as specimens in a jar can only be demoralising, and while all differences in culture, religion and identity should be recognised and appreciated as part of a diverse system, we need to be wary of forcing young people into stereotypes.

In terms of learning how to contribute to their community, children would ideally be provided with the opportunity of voluntary work in the same way that we are provided with work experience. Not only would this be practical in giving some help to charity organisations, pupils would be able to see the differences that their contribution, and the work of others, makes to their fellow citizens and how important it is to be an active member of society.

Apathy is something which unfortunately is the root cause of so many of the problems today, from litter to poverty. Most people simply don't realise why these issues should affect them and why they should have to do anything about it. Involving young people in their community and making them a valued party of it will instil a sense of purpose and usefulness in young people and encourage them to want to be a part of society and the world in which they live."

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