TES letters

14th March 2014 at 00:00

Malala isn't the new anything: she's herself

Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai is too young to be compared to Mother Teresa or Aung San Suu Kyi ("Is Malala the new Mother Teresa?", 7 March). The last thing she needs is the burden of an impossible-to-live-up-to reputation. The beauty of Malala's story is in her youthful idealism and untainted sincerity.

As a Muslim she offers an enlightened alternative to the fanaticism that so dominates our perception of her co-religionists. As a schoolgirl she reminds us that education is precious and should not be taken for granted. In an interview on BBC One's Panorama, she said: "Education is neither Eastern nor Western, education is education and it's the right of every human being." The wisdom of this courageous child gives us all hope and should be incorporated into the mission statement of every school.

Stan Labovitch
Windsor, Berkshire

Subject knowledge should stay a hot topic

Top marks for highlighting the central importance of subject knowledge and the need for subject-specific continuing professional development and support ("Why your staff need to know their stuff", Professional, 7 March).

Whether we are finding out about newly introduced topics or keeping abreast of tried and tested favourites, we should recognise that Google is no substitute for subject knowledge. The extensive programmes offered by subject bodies - such as the Royal Geographical Society - are invaluable for helping teachers to keep up to date and maintain their enthusiasm.

Steve Brace
Head of education and outdoor learning, Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers

We must keep neuroscience in mind

The article "Neuroscience a no-brainer? Think again, expert says" (28 February) reflects the prevalent mood of rejecting everything that doesn't have immediate utility in chasing grades. The "no-brainer" is that increasing our understanding of how the brain functions has to be relevant to education.

Those of us concerned to bridge the gap between the science and the classroom have formed Learnus (www.learnus.co.uk), which has run a series of mediated workshops for teachers, neuroscientists, educational psychologists and social anthropologists. We have also been working closely with the Centre for Educational Neuroscience on developing the mutual understanding that can address the issues bemoaned in your piece.

Richard Newton Chance
Principal, Queen Elizabeth's, Crediton, Devon

Edu-envy? Edu-wrath more like

Your correspondent accuses those of us in the state sector of "edu-envy", while also exhibiting "edu-complacency" ("On the naughty step", 7 March). When I was an inspector, I found that many of the best and still more of the worst schools were private. Quite rightly the article asks England's shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt to improve education for all. But how? By abolishing independent education and ensuring that all parents (including politicians) have a vested interest in promoting the best for all the nation's children.

Colin Richards
Spark Bridge, Cumbria

Discarding dyslexia would be a bad move

Once again we have an eminent professor enlightening us that there is no such disorder as dyslexia ("Why the dyslexia label may do more harm than good", 18 February).

In The Dyslexia Debate, Joe Elliott claims that there are so many kinds of complex reading problems that to use the single term dyslexia is meaningless. As an educational psychologist and former special educational needs teacher I am well aware of the complexity of the condition, but the term itself is still essential for administrative and guidance purposes.

I have come across numerous highly intelligent children whose innate abilities have been overlooked because of basic literacy problems. To lump them all together, which would happen if the term "dyslexia" was abolished, would be to return to a Victorian-style education where children were judged solely on their ability in mechanical reading and writing.

We cannot expect a teacher or educational administrator to comprehend all the underlying problems a dyslexic person has. However, if they are informed that the student suffers from a degree of the condition, they will have a general idea of how to cater for them. To dismiss dyslexia as meaningless is to employ an argument that could be applied to practically every other medical or psychological term.

Dr Peter J Congdon
Consultant educational psychologist

Liberal lessons about sex education

In the early 1960s, I went to Denmark to investigate some remarkable legislation being imposed by the Scandinavian governments. One aspect of this was to ban violence in the media but not sex. The Scandinavian view was that they would prefer children to become proficient at sex rather than violence, and all the evidence showed that there was no increase in aberrant sexual behaviour as a result of such exposure.

Another aspect was to make parents attend sex education classes at their children's schools. This was because the latter were often too embarrassed to report instances of sexual abuse to their parents. Any anxiety over discussing such delicate subjects was soon dispelled once the meetings had taken place. Children started to report problems to their parents, who went to the police, and instances of abuse fell dramatically.

The UK government of the day, and successive governments, have ignored my reports and articles concerning this matter.

Rayner Garner
South London


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