There seems to be a bit of a ruckus about the standard of education being doled out to our kids in school. People always like to bang on about the “3 Rs” but I often wonder – and I’ve now had 48 years to ponder the subject – if it’s not more than that. A real desire to immerse yourself in the full scope of education also comes into it, and I think that somewhere along the way, berween the traditional and contemporary schools of thought, that the real heed to tailor education to specific groups has been ignored.
I started school around 1959, and though I have little recognition of it, I do remember the little school house in Sylvania Rd, Sylvania Heights, and using slates and chalk. Around this time, Sylvania Heights Public School was built, and I was there from kindergarten to form 6. I spent 12 months at Gymea High School, before being sent to be a boarder at St Gregory’s Agricultural College at Campbelltown, to complete the last three years of my education. I hated school, and was one of those who said a definitive NO to a final two years, and was glad to get out at the end of 1969.
Okay, so we set the “3R’s” as the educational standard, but not all of us feel that way about it. I excelled at English and Social Studies/History at school, tolerated Geography, and loathed Arithmetic/Mathematics and Science. Not only did the subjects not interest me, I could see no value in them, and did really badly in them at exam time. My love of English & History has stated with me all my life, Science has held no place whatsoever, and my use of Mathematics has only ever been at the level of basics, as used in the retail trade.
So, to me, it would have been of more benefit to me to only have been taught some basic modules of Science & Mathematics instead of years of it, most of which was a waste of time. Algebra, volumes, and that sine, cos & tan stuff was unintelligible to me then…and still is! I think most of us know roughly what directions our lives will take after leaving school, so surely more personalised and directed education would be of more benefit to us than 12-14 years of enforced subjects, most of which ends up being of no value.
My life has revolved around English & History, so it is not surprising that I excelled in them. When I left school in 1969, one of the Marist Brothers, who tutored me in English, told me That with my imagination, and my ability to use words, that I shiuld take up writing. It took nearly 20 years for me to realise that he was right. Even in Primary school my compositions (often incorporating themes of Science Fiction and Fururism) were considered pretty over-the-top by my teachers. It is probably not surprising that in 2004 I finally obtained my Graduate Certificate in Writing, and also the realisation that I’m not really a story writer, but more inclined to articles, historical pueces, and opion pieces. Writing comes naturally to me, and the basis of an article can be stimulated by a single word, or thought. Likewise with my interest in History, a subject I excelled in all the way through school, often coming out at the top of the class.
The other subjects I did wellmin, though not part of the standard curriculum were Agriculture, and Wool Classing. Perhaps I should have been a farmer or grazier! Heaven knows but that with the right encouragement – not likely in my family – I may have gone on to do journalism.
So, I personally think we need to stop forcing our children tonundergo years of forced education in things that do not interest them. Yes, do the basics of the 3R’s if necessary, but give more attention to tailoring education towards subjects that interest and excite them. Education should not be a chore, but something that stimulates you, and sets you up for the future.
Tim Alderman (2016)