Drive to raise which standards?

11th April 2003 at 01:00
There can be no better reason to reassess what we teach than to watch Parkinson. Guest after guest (this week it was Jeremy Clarkson, of Top Gear) states that they did not like school due to the irrelevance of so much of what they had to learn.

"What possible use is the periodic table to me?" asked Clarkson, to much studio audience laughter. The sad fact is that he is right, as was Alan Titchmarsh (TV gardener) and Jack Dee (comedian) when they made similar statements.

It's astonishing how many of Michael Parkinson's guests were uninspired by their schooling, but I suppose the national curriculum is not designed to meet the needs of artists, musicians or actors, despite the huge contribution they make to the cultural life of the country.

As a deputy head in an urban comprehensive, I watch inspired teachers working hard (and successfully) to engage youngsters in learning how rivers erode the land, how to solve simultaneous equations, how to speak a foreign language, how photosynthesis works and all the other innumerable strands of the national curriculum.

Will this knowledge be useful to 95 per cent of my students in the future? I doubt it. Are the skills of learning far more important than the actual content? Definitely.

We all agree that standards of education should be raised, but surely there ought to be a far more lively debate about which standards we are raising?

Ben Warren

23 Oaks Road

Church Stretton, Shropshire

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