Saturday, January 10, 2009

The three keys to good education

Since I wrote about class sizes yesterday I've come across a few other articles about class sizes - most of which seem to think that smaller class sizes are what matters. They are wrong.

Class size is largely immaterial. Many countries have far larger class sizes than Britain - even as high as 50 to 70 - but still achieve better results. I should point out that I'm referring to general education here. Once you get onto university and specialised education - by which time the learner has, or should have, developed good study skills - it helps enormously to have smaller groups and one to one tuition, but for general education class size really isn't a big deal.

There are, in fact, just three key factors in delivering high quality education.

First of all, discipline. This doesn't mean caning and thrashing children for every minor infringement of school rules, but it does mean having rules and making sure that the children understand them and follow them - with suitable punishment for those that do infringe those rules. Discipline is important because, as I hinted at earlier, studying IS a discipline that has to be learned. It's also important in teaching children that their actions have consequences and if they break rules they will be punished accordingly.

The second thing is good teachers. What makes a good teacher? Well, contrary to most peoples view it is not a high level of knowledge. What makes a good teacher is having the ability to pass knowledge on to others and help them to understand. Quite often, as I'm sure most of you are aware, the most gifted, qualified and knowledgeable people are utterly incapable of passing that knowledge on to others. So it's not about how qualified a teacher is - largely irrelevant at primary school level, to be honest - but how good they are at communicating with children.

The third thing and the most overlooked today is good teaching methods. Over the last 40-50 years we've seen countless new "trendy" teaching methods introduced most of which have have failed to improve standards and, far worse, have often lowered standards. Ditch trendy teaching methods and go back to tried and trusted teaching methods that are proven to be effective.

That's all you need - certainly in primary school. As I said, the more specialised the learning becomes the more attention you need to give individual pupils and it then helps to have smaller groups - but for teaching kids to read, write and count the size of the class isn't really that important.


JuliaM said...

"That's all you need..."

And you need those three things to sit within a culture that values education.

Do we, anymore? We used to. We talk about how we value it now, but I wonder if our actions match our words?

Stan said...

What's changed is that we used to value education as a means to pass knowledge on to our children and improve society - now education is valued as a means to indoctrinate children into progressive liberalism and entrench society - still valued, but for different reasons.

Sue said...

The system used to work.

The system worked because we had discipline in schools. We would never have dreamed of calling any teacher by their first name. We had to stand when a teacher entered the room!

Reading, writing and arithmetic taught the old fashioned way works, no doubt about it!

We don't do kids any favours by mollycoddling them (using no red ink etc...). Children need to learn to cope with failure and pick themselves up again. Its a life lesson!

Children haven't changed. They need to learn in a structured, disciplined environment or they run wild.. as they are doing now.

Old Greeny said...

I am a teacher in a small rural comprehensive. We have one or two "likely lads", but on the whole, discipline is pretty good. However, I would like to comment on the fact that we, as teachers, are being forced to take over more and more of what used to be, in my day, parental responsibility. For instance, we are now required to teach "Community Cohesion" (whatever THAT is!).....I presume it's a case of....erm....treating ech other with respect? But what do I know? I teach maths...If someone knows how to teach "Community Cohesion" in maths, please let me know....