For most of us, 12 years of our lives, that’s 12 years in a row, are spent in a room, say about 9 metres wide by about 12 metres long, a large, rectangular green, chalk-ridden board at the front, the bare minimum in the way of windows, and for a lot of us, no air-conditioning in the summer.
We sit behind a desk, next to a kid with an obvious B.O problem and a girl passing notes to her friend in front of her, sniggering away whenever you glance over.
There is an adult, a person of unquestionable (though sometimes questionable) authority up at the front. Occasionally they sit behind a rather large desk at the front of the room, looking over the class as they are meant to remain silently working on whatever meaningless droll task they have kept them busy with. This is known as the moment of fear.
Sometimes they get up and stand in front of the class and ask questions that you don’t know the answer to. If the moment before was marked by fear, then this event is pure terror, especially when they make eye contact.
Apart from badly programmed times for a recess and lunch break, you don’t leave this room until after 3pm. And then, there’s work to take home with you.
Fortunately, this isn’t true of all schools today, even though it was the norm well over 50 years ago. However, I can honestly say that my 7 years of primary school were almost following this example to a T.
In this country, and especially in W.A, there are many differing levels of education that a student can receive in terms of quality. Some students may benefit greatly from a more opened way of learning through Montessori styles of learning. While others may need plenty of teacher-intervention and supervision with their study. Some kids just plain ‘get it’ and some don’t. There are dozens of differing personalities within the one classroom, and one teacher must cater to every single one of them and treat them all equally. Or so it says in theory.
Quality of education differs and this leaves a massive problem when we look at the haves and the have-nots. Much like a privatised health system, it leaves those struggling to make ends meet out in the cold. Is this a fair system when the future, our future, is in the hands of a system that rewards those with more money?
I honestly believe that all education, from kindergarten, right up through to undergraduate study at university, should be free.
Why? Well simply put, education is one of the single most important factors in an individuals life. If one has an education, has knowledge, then they certainly have power. Even those who are aiming to leave school early to take up a trade, apprenticeships should be fully paid for up to the point where the student is able to begin earning enough money to support themselves.
I am not an advocate of the private school system. I don’t believe that private schools are a better institution to learn in. I have many friends who went through the public school system and who have succeeded in life and are very learned, much more so than myself. I struggled in high school, simply because I did not like what I was being taught. There was nothing that interested me: Australian History – done to death in primary school. English – great subject but the texts we studied were not exactly great works of literature, I already was an ace at spelling and grammar so that was very boring to revise as well. Maths – simply put, I’m just not a mathematical person, numbers don’t work for me at all.
The only subjects I enjoyed throughout High School were subjects from The Arts or IT. Combining the two was pure joy, and today I enjoy teaching both areas.
Now obviously, the government has to pay all those teachers, administrators and other staff members if they work in a school, and free education doesn’t exactly fill the coffers with the funds for that…. well, without wanting to beat a dead horse, I’ll say it again – simply raise the taxes enough so that education can be funded. People will complain at first simply because that is what people do when taxes are raised, but then they’ll think about how education is something that they don’t have to worry about for their children… ever! Thousands of dollars in their hands!
However, not realistic due to the kind of society that we live in.
I see education as a commodity – it is a valuable one. The way we use our minds, our thought processes, the knowledge that we use to solve problems and create a better way of understanding how the universe works, advancing our interpersonal skills so that we build better friendships, business and personal relationships and trust with those close to us. This is all a precious commodity that we simply cannot afford to waste in our lives. We only have one, we don’t live our lives fully if we are not expanding the way we think and sharing the knowledge that we have with others.
Education is a funny area today. Everybody, no matter who they are or how experienced they are with the system, has an opinion on what should be taught, how kids should learn and what teachers should be doing. The most uneducated person will have their 2 cents before the debate and proclaim, “kids don’t learn the proper stuff in schools today”. What is the ‘proper stuff’. Where do people get the idea that children are not learning something that is beneficial to them? I’ll admit it, the education system does need an overhaul and there are some aspects of the curriculum across a number of subjects that need to be drastically changed. However, it is not yet a broken system. Education will always go through changes and one day there will be a very dramatic paradigm shift in teaching and learning, yet we are still far away from that.
The problem I have with different levels of educational quality is that it does not allow those with potential and talent, to get the most out of their time at a school – there are so many more extra-curricular programs that could be taking place, yet they cost money, and the have-nots simply lose out due to the fact that they can’t afford them for their children.
I teach at a public school and I do teach some wonderfully gifted students, yet they don’t get the most out of their time here because they don’t do any extra. They come to school, and then they go home. Where are the extension programs, the camps, the debating competitions, the sports? It’s not there because of an unfair system. So in order for free education to work, there does need to be a significant amount of funding.
I for one, would have no problem with taking a pay cut if it means more funding to the school for resources for our students. I have no problem with that if it means we are looking out for the future.