Summoned by bells at age of seven

29th December 1995 at 00:00
I was not surprised to read of the striking similarity in the education policies of the Labour and Conservative parties, (TES, December 8), nor by their shared obsession with an objectives' model focusing on curriculum targets, three-year plans, appraisal goals and the like. Will they ever stop to ask if the "objectives' model" best suits education, whose Latin root, educere, emphasises drawing forth, bringing out and educing?

The interests which shaped my own future were drawn out, first at the age of seven when I stood in the playground and listened to the school choir singing Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring and second, two years later, when I listened to The Lake Isle of Innisfree being read by a teacher whose love of English was obvious to all. These two haphazard encounters were all I needed to ring my own distant bells and point me towards a successful career in music and English.

If this experience is common to others, the implications for successful schools are obvious. Tolstoy suggested that "no teacher should teach what he is not wildly enthusiastic about". If children, schooled in the basics, could spend the rest of their time with wild enthusiasts, discovering and following up whatever rang bells in them, experts in every field would soon be appearing through a process of natural selection: teachers selected for their knowledge and enthusiasm, and children selecting what they wanted from among them. The start of each school day would be devoted to teaching the basics and be followed by an appetising menu of opportunities for exploration and choice.

Is it any wonder that teachers, teaching to prescription, lack inspiration, or that children, fed on a reduced diet of everything rather than a full plate of what most appeals, fail to thrive? Although an objectives approach to education may win votes, it fails to realise that objective water is rarely to the taste of subjective horses.

ALAN MILLARD 8 Medina Court Marine Parade West Lee-on-the-Solent Hampshire

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