Education books

8th June 2001 at 01:00
Erika, an American woman of 23, has lived more than half her life in Singapore. The family takes her home to the US, where she feels unsettled, unable to fit in. So she goes "home"; back to Singapore, alone. But, to her horror, that doesn't work either: "Many things she had taken for granted as a child in the expatriate business community of Singapore were no longer hers to enjoy as a young, single, foreign woman living with a Singaporean family."

Erika's story opens Third Culture Kids by David C Pollock and Ruth E Van Reken (Nicholas Brealey Publications pound;12.99. TES pound;12.99, 10 copies pound;110). For the authors' purposes, "TCKs" are children who spend part of their upbringing in another culture, usually with parents who are working abroad.

The book offers other sad tales - the Norwegian girl in an American-oriented international school who quietly and defiantly celebrates Norway's Independence Day - on her own. The Finnish boy whose American medical education and lack of written fluency in his own language mean he won't get a job as a doctor back in Finland.

The feelings experienced by TCKs are of loss akin to bereavement. As the authors point out, there will be many more TCKs as the economy goes global. The book explores opinions and research in order to present ways by which these children's experience of different cultures can be turned to life-enriching advantage.

Teacher education courses used to have lots of psychology in them. Nobody was ever sure why. Somehow, the chapter that told you how to cope with 5H on a wet Friday afternoon was always missing.

Now Manuel Martinez-Pons has made a bold attempt to bridge the gap in the form of The Psychology of Teaching and Learning (Continuum International Publishing pound;15.99 paperback, pound;55 hardback. TES pound;14.99, 10 copies pound;145). Professor Martinez-Pons divides teaching and learning into three phases: "pre-engagement", "engagement" and "post-engagement". It's an interesting approach, and there are good ideas to be mined from the book.

It's hard going, though. he very first sentence reads: "Although some of the factors impacting on the process of instruction do so tangentially, the success of the instructional effort depends in large part on the degree to which each factor is given its due attention." I tried singing it as a Gregorian chant, but even that didn't make it any easier on the ear.

By contrast, John Lucas's The Good that We Do (Greenwich Exchange pound;9.99) is an easy and rewarding read. It's the warm, moving story of Lucas's grandfather, Horace "Hod" Kelly, head of a succession of elementary schools in deprived areas of London during the first half of the 20th century.

"The last photograph I have of my grandfather comes from summer, 1939," writes Lucas. "Hod, this time taken unawares, is sitting in a garden deckchair, his now virtually bald head bent over a colander gripped between his knees as he shells peas or beans into itI In the sunlight on this garden there is no shadow of war or death, though neither is far off. 'Look up,' I want to say to him, 'let me see you.' But he's concentrating on the work in front of him."

After this, a book full of statistics might seem an anti-climax. But The Values Debate by Leslie J Francis (Woburn Press pound;39.50 hardback, pound;17.50 paperback) - the results of an inquiry into the attitudes of 34,000 13 to 15-year-olds in England and Wales - isn't like that at all.

The figures - grouped under "age", sex", "social class", "parental separation or divorce", "church attendance", and "television" - tell the story of what it's like to be young in today's Britain. More than 60 per cent of these children worry about getting Aids. Forty per cent believe in ghosts, 70 per cent want to get married in church and 38 per cent believe in God. Startlingly, 27 per cent say they've contemplated suicide.

The numbers describe a generation simultaneously worried, optimistic, doubting, radical, conservative. And that's the point where you wonder whether these supposed aliens really are different from the rest of us.


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