Would you dare pit your wits against today's 10-year-olds?

17th February 2012 at 00:00
Primary schools do a great job and youngsters' achievements are too often underestimated

Have you ever watched Are You Smarter Than a 10 Year Old? It's a TV quiz, fronted by Noel Edmonds, in which adults are assisted by a group of under-10s. The young ones really know their stuff and prove, more often than not, that the adult is most definitely not the smarter one. My own 10-year-old loves the programme and wants to take part - with me as the hapless adult. Unfortunately, I explained, the programme is not being recorded at the moment. I also said I was very disappointed. Perhaps a few of us are smarter than a 10-year-old?

But under-10s are impressive. They still have their youthful enthusiasm for learning, and their ability to acquire new skills and knowledge is quite remarkable. Most 10-year-olds are eager to please, usually remember their homework, and politely say "please" and "thank you".

Today's 10-year-olds are part of a generation born in the 21st century which has grown up with laptops, the internet and smartphones. They know all about apps and blogs. If you can't understand your new smartphone, ask a 10-year-old for help.

And the knowledge that our 10-year-olds are acquiring is much more useful and interesting than the knowledge I remember acquiring when I was in P6. I'm still waiting to use, for example, all that stuff about the life-cycle of a fly which my primary teacher thought it necessary to teach me.

I think our primary schools are doing a brilliant job. Yes, of course, some could do this and that a bit better but, on the whole, our children leave primary school well educated and with a smile on their faces.

So, what happens in secondary school? Progress slows in too many cases, and with some readers and writers there is regression. Boys in particular are a problem. Hormones, of course, kick in and start to impair judgements and choices. And too many subjects, teachers and classrooms don't help. The constant changing of teaching groups just adds to the confusion. It's not surprising that so many pupils disengage.

After the age of 10, the dynamics of friendships seem to change and become more complex. Some pupils find it difficult to assess what's going on and fail to spot potentially destructive situations. Younger secondary pupils greatly miss the primary teachers and classroom assistants who were always ready and able to listen to what they had to say.

But as for 10-year-olds, they are just fine. They are big fish in small primary-school ponds, and they thrive on this. Unfortunately, my own 10- year-old has informed me that she has emailed Noel Edmonds and says her favourite quiz programme will be back soon. Gosh - perhaps even I'm not smarter than a 10-year-old.

John Greenlees, Secondary teacher. John Greenlees teaches geography.

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