Why schools have lost the plot

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frustrated child

As a teacher I’m often dismayed by the complex curriculum delivered to high school students. The expectation for adolescents — required to understand and adhere to standards more suited to first year university students — is ridiculous.

Words like meta-cognition, conceptualise, plurality, multi-model and etymology are bandied about on worksheets for 13-year-olds. I have trouble understanding half of these concepts myself let alone teenage students immersed in their phones and social media.

Originally, school was intended to teach reading, writing and arithmetic. A grounding in these subjects prepared students for the workforce or further studies.

Yet we now expect kids to attain unrealistic standards that were not required in our own schooling.

There is increasing evidence that the workload demanded of high school students is too hard, leading to burnout and depression.

Homework. once a right of passage in high school, now begins in primary school, leaving less time for play (an essential developmental requirement).

The Naplan test, an Australia-wide grading system for Years 5, 7 and 9, has also pressured schools to deliver on academic achievement. Practical skills like cooking, trades and the arts are devalued and the focus is predominantly on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths).

And now the evidence suggests that young people lack resilience. Is it any wonder when they are forever judged on academic performance rather than developing life skills?

It’s time to pare back the education curriculum so that students focus on reading, writing and  maths.

They can explore meta-cognition, etymology and plurality at university when they are ready for it.

Author: Sue Bell
Sue Bell is an entertainment writer and author of Backpacked: A mostly true story, Beat Street and When Dreamworks came to Stanley.

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