Okay, so I've been having a bit of a whinge about education... I guess it's now my turn to put a few ideas on the table. I admit it might not be practical to get rid of the entire education system in one fell swoop. Although saying that, personally I don't think it would be that bad if we did. People tend to think that society is going to suddenly collapse if children stop going to school. Well, don't worry, it won't. Either way I think I'll provide a halfway house and offer something a bit more practical.
I'll start by going back to a topic I touched upon in one of my earlier posts - the length of the school day. It would be easy to improve things by simply shortening the school day. If I was running the country right now I'd seriously be considering plans to cut the school day in half. Why does school have to be like work? Shouldn't it be joyful?
A second change I would make would be to end this thing where we're threatening parents with jail if their children play truant. Taking someone to court and possibly jailing them because they don't get their child to school is just appalling. We're essentially criminalising people because they have a problem child, or because they themselves have problems raising a child. If a child doesn't want to go to school we should find out why they don't enjoy it and then try to find ways of making it more enjoyable and bearable. Threatening a parent with jail (even if it's only a threat) is just making life harder for everyone involved.
This brings me to an even bigger problem - the problem of dealing with difficult children. A big point of issue at the moment seems to be this idea that teachers don't have enough power and respect in the classroom. We used to use corporal punishment (essentially violence) in schools in order to enforce discipline, now we've abandoned that way of doing things we simply don't know what to do any more. The problem essentially being how do you discipline pupils without resorting to the use of force? Well, the answer is that you can't. Shouting and screaming, if it isn't backed up by the use of force, is just an empty gesture and after that there's pretty much nothing else a teacher can do. This is why you often hear people calling for the reintroduction of corporal punishment.
However, the true answer to this conundrum is that we shouldn't really be using discipline in schools at all. Children should be in school because they enjoy going and they shouldn't need to be forced to be there by any form of aggression (even if it's just raised voices). If you do get children that genuinely do have behavioural problems. Particularly problems that involve violence or aggression towards other people then those children simply should not be in school.
Like I said earlier, we have this notion that all children must go to school all the time. But I ask, what's the point in sending a child with genuine problems to school? How can you expect a child to do well in maths class if they have serious problems in their home life or serious behavioural problems? Wouldn't it make much more sense to tackle those problems first, and look upon education as a secondary issue. Surely it would be better to produce a happy law abiding citizen that's poor at maths than to simply produce a criminal. Why focus on maths (or whatever else) and ignore the core social problems.
If someone misses a lot of maths, so what? If they grow up to be a decent person that's the main thing. You can always learn Pythagoras later when the more important problems have been dealt with.
We have such a strong belief that going to school is important that it's become almost sacrilege for a child not to go. So much so that we're using the threat of jail to enforce our belief. But is it really that bad if a child doesn't go? Especially if that child is making it difficult to teach other children that actually want to be there. A more laid back attitude towards school attendance would be better for everyone. If a child is seriously aggressive and disruptive then simply take them out of school. Social problems should be for social workers not for teachers.