I started as a teacher in 1987. I began as a high school Maths teacher in Jamaica, then worked as an EFL instructor to teenagers and adults in Poland, South Korea and Thailand. I trained as a primary class teacher in the UK and France, taught primary from Year 4-6 in the UK, France, Thailand and China, and then home-schooled my own children through IGCSEs and A-Levels.
Gary John Ilines
BA Honours, CTEFLA, PGCE Modern Languages, MA International Education
Education by school is based primarily on the concept of uniformity and conformity. From the moment a child enters the gates of a school, he or she ceases to be an individual who makes choices and decisions about his or her own time but becomes a 'student'. Students must all arrive at the same time, wearing the same clothes, and do the same things. School is based around a group concept where the allocation of activities and timings is based on everyone doing the same thing at the same time for the same duration. Very little deviation from uniform behavior is allowed and individuality is strongly discouraged. Students must ask permission to speak, drink water, move or use the toilet - basic human rights. Students must line up in most schools around the world this includes regularly pledging allegiance to a flag.
When school managers sit down to plan and organize, there is only one fundamental groups of concerns on their minds: how can he or she direct everyone to act in the same way, how can he or she enforce this objective, and how can he or she reward those who conform to these directives and sanction any behavior which deviates from this desired norm. This includes both children and staff.
Yet, any informed educator knows that successful education is based on creativity and individuality. Economically and/or emotionally successful human beings are those who are creative, innovative and individual. No successful person ever became successful by copying someone else or by being the same as everyone else in the group. Nonetheless, this basic and obvious premise is completely ignored by most school management in their planning and in their actions. Seriously, has anyone ever seen any differentiation in timetabling, curriculum, INSET or assemblies?
What is most interesting to me, though, is that all of the non-classroom activities which are imposed upon classroom teachers most of whom just want to be left alone to be with children are based on promoting this individuality. Think about it. EAL, setting and SEN support are based on differences between children. As are the Gifted and Talented programs. Differentiation is insisted upon in lesson observations. Assessment, reports and parent conferences are all supposed to be differentiated and highly personalized. However, in school we teach all the children together in groups, don't we? All children do Mathematics at the same time and for the same durations each week. Why don't we just meet all the parents at the same time? Wouldn't that be easier and more convenient for the teacher – just as timetabling children in groups to follow the same curriculum at the same time is more convenient for school managers? The Student Council is designed to give students a voice, to allow them to be creative and to offer ideas for change – but do we think anything will change once the ideas reach the school management? Even days such as Halloween and Literacy Dress-Up days are designed to provide a window of individuality. But all these things, from EAL and SEN to Book Day and Reports are nothing more than veneer to cover up the fundamental truth that school managers want everyone to be the same because it's easier that way. I suggest that a school based on the premise that education is personalized to each and every student would have none of these phenomena.
Nothing is ever going to change education fundamentally for the better until the basic structure of school is changed or perhaps many schools should just be abolished altogether. All the things mentioned above are petty and meaningless compared to the fundamental changes which need to take place at management levels in a school. EAL, SEN, G&T and differentiation are not solutions to the problem - they are symptoms (hypocritically imposed) of a fundamentally flawed premise that people can be successfully educated in groups who are doing the same thing in the same way at the same time.
I don't think they can.© Copyright Gary John Ilines.