Why the UK’s education system needs to change

I HAVEN’T been at school for almost 10 years. This fact makes me simultaneously elated that I haven’t had an army of teachers telling me what to do for almost a decade, but it also makes me feel despair at the fact that I’m only three-and-a-half years away from turning 30.

Neither of those things are the point of this article though, you’ll be glad to hear. What I want to write about is the education system in the UK and how it’s quite obviously extremely out of date. Now, like I said, I haven’t been at school for almost 10 years, and I don’t have any brothers/sisters/cousins/friends with babies who are young enough to tell me what it’s like now, so I’m just going to go on the basis that everything is pretty much the same except that there are a lot more interactive whiteboards and a lot fewer handwritten essays.

Unsurprisingly, I didn’t really like school. I hate being told what to do, I hated having to sit through lessons I wasn’t any good at (I’m looking at you, chemistry), and I really hated when I was being taught by someone who was clearly a fucking idiot. Unfortunately for me, I’m built in a way that means if I don’t like something, I just don’t put any effort into it, which is why I came away from school with distinctly average results. I only liked a couple of subjects (French, English) so these were the ones I did well in, and everything else just fell by the wayside.

I also hate exams. I made my university choice based on which institution would make me sit the least number of exams. A solid selection process, I think you’ll agree. The point I’m trying to make is that although I didn’t do really well at school, this doesn’t reflect me as a person. Parents’ Evenings and school reports were always full of “Iona could do so much better is she just applied herself a little more” but I didn’t want to, so it didn’t happen.

The thing I hated most about school was how everything was geared around the students who did well in their exams. I’m excellent at sport, I have great leadership skills, I can handle situations under pressure, and I am full of common sense. These things don’t make for As at A-Level though, which means I, and others like me, who don’t have a great memory for information and who don’t have the ability to sit in lessons and absorb facts for hours on end, left school thinking that I was sub-par.

It’s not fair that this happens. When I left school, I thought I was at the lower end of the population for being intelligent and good at things because I had Cs and Ds in my exam results. It wasn’t until I got into the real world that I realised those things don’t matter.

Exams are just one big memory test. I watched a celebrity edition of Mastermind over Christmas and one of the contestants was a TV presenter. She did very well on the topic of her chosen subject, which she had had time to research and commit facts to memory, but when it came to the general knowledge round, she tanked. I think this is a perfect example of what the school system is like today; you can revise and memorise everything you need for an exam, but when you get out into life and actually need to know things that they don’t teach you in a text book, you’re scuppered.

Why are our children still being tested in a way that is so clearly out of date? Now that tuition fees are so high, and everyone and their dog can get into a university of some sort, it’s no wonder that school leavers aren’t going on to secondary education. I know if I had the choice again, I certainly wouldn’t, but university was presented to me as the only option 10 years ago.

People are getting jobs through Twitter now, and are encouraged to send in their CVs in a way to make them stand out. These aren’t things you need a briefcase and a tie for. There are so many jobs available based on things you don’t even get taught in school. I was Head of Social Media at a digital agency for four years before going freelance. I’m pretty sure this wasn’t even a job in 2006.

My point is that we need to adapt our schools and education system, and make it work for 2015. Fewer people give a shit about exam results, unless you’re looking to be a doctor or an aeronautical engineer, then those things are quite important. As long as you’re competent at reading and writing, employers are looking for skills that aren’t taught in the classroom, and I think it’s time that fact was acknowledged.


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Iona St Joseph

Written by Iona St Joseph

PR exec who likes finding funnies and cool stuff online. Print journalism graduate.

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