Soaps are the new reality

18th February 2005 at 00:00
The media, soap operas, exams that are too easy, the Government, parents, local authorities and the onset of puberty are among the causes of pupils'

lack of motivation, according to teacher unions.

The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers painted a remarkable picture in which "gangs of rampaging P7s with alcopops clutched in their little hands" were not uncommon. Streaming was one answer, it suggested.

The Professional Association of Teachers in Scotland has told the Scottish Parliament's education committee that young people's idols are singers, actors and sports personalities who "are proud to announce that they often did not do well at school but look at how successful they are now".

"Some young people are very gullible and believe that they too can somehow achieve this success. Also the soaps on television are more real to some young people than life itself and they often identify with the characters whereas school is seen as a place you have to go to between 9am and 3.30pm," the PAT states.

It added: "The advent of the mobile phone with its own language and increasing technology of pictures and videos reinforces other forms of media. All of this is seen as exciting and what life is about.

"School should be a place where you are expected to think, to work out problems and write about topics you have been taught in the preceding months - why do that when you can do all of these other things and still succeed?"

The submission continues: "Another strand to this problem is how relatively easy it is to 'succeed' under the present qualifications system. You only have to speak to experienced teachers to confirm that it is now much easier for pupils to do well in exams (if the pupils work even a fraction as hard as those pupils five to 10 years ago)."

The NASUWT rails against social inclusion policies and discipline, saying:

"No matter what material resources are thrown at the classroom teacher, when (not if) pupils are unintentionally ignored in class because their teacher is having to enforce discipline with unruly pupils rather than maintain discipline, then certain groups of pupils will not be motivated to perform at their best, since the teacher may not have time to look at their work properly."

The union also appears to endorse a policy of streaming by ability, calling for more time to be spent on the basics. It believes this will prevent pupils who have only a level A or B in English or maths ending up in mixed-ability science classes in secondary school studying a topic at level E or F.

The Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association says that young people's internal motivation is at a "low ebb" when they enter secondary school due to the onset of puberty. "This is particularly true of males who increasingly operate in a subculture where lethargy and apparent disinterest are at a premium," the SSTA states.

It calls for the immediate removal of "all those silly awards ceremonies", and for young people to learn self-motivation rather than expecting schools to impose external motivation.

"Frankly, it is hard to imagine any self-respecting male adolescent having anything but complete and utter contempt for such public mutual back-slapping," the association concludes.

The Educational Institute of Scotland blames policy initiatives in the 1980s and early 1990s aimed at increasing headline attainment statistics (as opposed to broader measures of achievement) and welcomes moves to change the curriculum in some schools.

The Association of Head Teachers in Scotland says that, "since local authorities have given such scant thought to the regular welfare of all staff in schools, we have a large section of the education workforce arriving at their workplace totally disillusioned".

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