In a world where education is the means we use to close social, financial, and class-based gaps, our schools are some of the most important institutions in our society. Yet, we don’t often treat them that way. We are falling behind, coming 27th in mathematics in the all-important Pisa rankings and 22nd in reading. We are hearing that our education is stagnating, but many won’t look at the reasons why that might be the case. That’s why we’re going to look at three of the crises currently facing our education system.
At a time when we need them most, we’re facing a true crisis in the lack of teachers currently in the field giving our education the kind of quality that our children deserve. Especially as we face the uncertainty of a post-Brexit economy, we can’t be satisfied with seeing the lack of teachers continue to grow. We need to find our economic focus and as we gear up to become a knowledge-based jobs community, we need more skilled people to take up the teaching jobs that have been left vacant for a long time. The onus doesn’t lie with potential teachers, of course, but the necessary reform of the systems they work in, too. Unmanageable workloads are currently leading as one of the greatest reasons why teachers will quit, so handling workflow to better retain teachers must be a focus.
Teachers are one side of the coin, of course. On the other side, however, we are dealing with a significant lack of engagement seen in many of our students. One of the greatest reasons for a lack of engagement, particularly in the hard sciences of mathematics, physics, chemistry, and the like, is down to the lack of careers engagement. Just 43% of pupils in the country admit to having any formal careers guidance at all. Besides offering advice and consultation in the school, education institutions should be pushed to partner with more businesses, bringing the ‘real world’ to education and highlighting the steps between the education and the job that education can lead to.
No trust in Trusts
As schools, from primary to secondary, look for more support in order to fund the places they need for more teachers and the methods of better engaging the pupils, Trusts are forming to make that possible. But many fear that the Multi-Academy Trusts on the rise may be more of a detriment to teachers and pupils alike. If MATs live up to those fears, it could lead to a lack of autonomy and control over resources in the member schools. Just as much of a concern is looking into any of the political or economic agendas that could be fostered at the head of those MATs if transparency isn’t made a priority. While the Multi-Academy Trust could be important in solving the structural and resource problems of our education systems, it’s clear they need to be watched and held accountable by the teachers and parents who rely on them.
It has been a long time since the call of ‘education, education, education’ won an election. As focus shifts toward income inequality and our geopolitical ties, let’s not forget that society, its wants, its flaws, and its achievements, all start with education.