I was asked last year to write something brief about what I thought was a good education. I was under time pressure and had a word limit. This was what I came up with.
A good education begins at home in the very early years of life. In fact, the role of the home (usually, but not always, our parents) is vital to the provision and access to a good education. Our parents/guardians are our first teachers and the only teachers who are with us throughout our entire childhood and development.
At school a ‘good’ education can be defined in many different ways, but fundamentally, children need to be provided with the skills that will allow them to access a life in modern society (numeracy, literacy, social responsibility, understanding and tolerance of others in the world). However, they must also be given the opportunity to explore, learn for themselves, perhaps through their own mistakes, develop their own specific interests and ideas and to form relationships with others.
I value highly and place a huge importance on achieving the highest grades possible in whatever examination series a student is participating in and in particular the ‘terminal’ GCSE and A level exams we have in the UK. This is not because I think the exam system is necessarily a good one, but because I believe in the power of exam result to open doors and create opportunities. It is on the outcome of public examinations that our young people individuals are judged when it comes to university education and the job market. The outcomes of the results in these examinations stay with them throughout their lives and careers. Clearly the better a candidate appears to be on paper, the more opportunities will present themselves.
I believe that there are two broad aspects essential to a student achieving their full potential. The first is a quality teaching and learning experience delivered by empowered and credible teachers who can inspire the best possible academic success from their students.
The second is in providing a holistic approach to the education of a young person. This is a very broad statement. Maslow’s hierarchy offers a good starting point, but I would add that education is about positive life experiences and encouraging students to have a desire and passion for learning beyond the subjects they have specified an interest in. Our ‘science’ students should be inspired to consider and understand the arts; humanities students ought to understand or have access to principals of theories such as evolution and relativity. Furthermore, I believe that if a student has a quality ‘holistic’ and ‘extra-curricular’ experience, they will be more successful academically and in life. They will have broader horizons and more able to understand and appreciate others. Schools and colleges clearly have a role to play in giving young people access to opportunities that provide an education (with a small ‘e’).