Sunday, 10 December 2017

Why the Education System is Fatally Flawed

by Cordelia Hobbs



In my humble opinion, our British education system is slowly but surely destroying what it means to be human and we are losing sight of the power and beauty of learning. My argument primarily comes from a lack of art within the syllabus which leads to an unrepresentative system which has an extremely negative impact on our mental well being.

"the loss of these tastes [appreciation of the arts] is a loss of happiness,
and may possibly be injurious to the intellect, and more probably to the moral character,
by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature.”  Charles Darwin

It was Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin who first inspired these thoughts about education for me. One of my favourite quotations is by Charles Darwin: "the loss of these tastes [appreciation of the arts] is a loss of happiness, and may possibly be injurious to the intellect, and more probably to the moral character, by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature.” I would go one step further and say that our ability to create art is what makes us human. To me, art and creativity is this human and individual response to the world around you whether that be through the medium of music or painting or soap carving or poetry or literature - the list is endless. In an evolutionary sense, very few (if any) animals have the cognitive function to appreciate beauty as we do. As a result of this response to our surroundings being so unique and subjective from person to person it cannot be replicated by machines.

"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree,
it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Albert Einstein

My other favourite quotation is from Albert Einstein: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” It is believed to have inspired the cartoon analogy of a tree to show the education and exam system. It depicts an illusion of fairness with a test of climbing the tree when in fact only one of the animals would pass whilst any of the animals would excel at another test but evidently fail miserably in this one due to their different skill sets. If we test everyone with GCSEs, A levels and those debilitating, awful things that we call exams, of course some will thrive and others will not, but that does not mean a pupil with a different skill set couldn't have blossomed. That pupil will then be represented as weaker than they are, meaning they have been unrepresented and failed by the education system.


We cram two years of education into exams as short as two hours. What a waste! They require very few skills except memory, especially in mathematic and scientific based subjects. This makes artificial intelligence a real and close threat to jobs in the future, particularly for my generation. Robots have the ability of a memory far superior than any human. It has been predicted that artificial intelligence will outperform humans in the next 10 years in tasks such as translating languages (by 2024), writing GCSE and A level essays (by 2026) and driving lorries (by 2027).  A robot could do your GCSEs a lot quicker than you, a lot cheaper than you and a whole lot more accurately than you in a fraction of the time that you can do them in. However depressing this may sound, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Luckily for us there isn't an algorithm for human thought yet, I hope anyway. This is ultimately why I think artistic subjects are so beneficial in our generation. They provide an input on life that isn't memory based, as our education system and syllabus seems to suggest.

The immense pressure of exams is having a profound impact on our mental health too. 50% of mental health issues are established before 14. This increases to 75% of mental health issues before 24. In actual fact, UK statistics for mental health are hard to come by. The last study targeted at children and adolescents was done 13 years ago in 2004. The same study concluded that as a country we suffer from an increased number of cases of anorexia and self harm which is linked to a mental attitude of helplessness and feeling a need to gain back control of one's life. These aren't nice statistics to hear at all but I think it's important to know that we are susceptible to that pressure and that that we could easily be part of that statistic if we let school control too much of our life. I think these statistics are proof enough that we need to pay more attention to the issue of mental health. You need stability in the form of sleep, food and water. The minute you step out of the bubble of exams and school and have a moment to yourself is the moment you begin to gain that little bit of perspective that enables you to assess how you're feeling and make better decisions. The message I would leave you with is that it’s healthy to enrich your life outside of school and utilise the ability to educate yourself. School is not your life, your life is not school.

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