Too little too soon?

The trouble with working at home is there’s no one to shout at. I’ve just managed to lose a chunk of a GIS table I’ve been working on for several days and am now going to have to backtrack to find out where it has gone; I suspect the culprit was SQL select and no, I don’t know what that means either.  My map was so beautiful.  Grinds teeth, types very slowly and indulges in displacement activity. 

Well, a small amount of revision has begun and I can now solve simultaneous equations (simple ones) and calculate compound interest, and I sort of know the difference between alkanes and alkenes and saturated and unsaturated hydrocarbons.  Whether older son does or not, or indeed whether he cares, is a somewhat moot point.  He has to do a folio piece for German in class today.  He has written it out, had it corrected, rewritten it and all he has to do is learn it by heart. And he’ll have a dictionary available.  It really can’t be made much easier, yet will he learn it? I struggled not to lose my temper over this one.  We’ve already had the argument “but why do I need to know the German for balcony? Who is ever going to ask me about a balcony?”  If only life were that simple.  Meanwhile, younger son has a French test today and was busy reciting his vocabulary all round the house.

Over the past few months I have been mulling over whether or not I think that taking Standard Grades in S3 is a good thing.  I think this depends on your viewpoint – good Standard Grade results for the school or a broad general education for the youngsters although of course these aren’t mutually exclusive.  I have two main problems with it.  First of all, my young 14yr old either doesn’t really understand what it’s all about or is terrified by the whole thing, I’m not sure which.  He’s not Einstein but he’s reasonably bright, intelligent and conscientious and should be able to get good grades.  However, the way things are going, unless a switch suddenly flicks in his head he is not going to get the grades he could be capable of.  It way well be that there would be no difference if he did the exams in S4, and perhaps he is the sort of student for whom 2 years for Highers will be a good thing.  The problem is not being able to read the future andit could all go pear shaped.

My second, and perhaps more major, issue is that skipping second year narrows the children’s education and puts all the focus at a young age from learning onto passing exams.  In 1st Year they have a very broad syllabus – let’s see if I can get it right:-  Maths, English, French/German, History, Geography, RME, Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Art, CDT, PE, Music, IT, SE, FT, Modern Studies.  I make that 17 subjects.  In 2nd Year they choose 8 subjects plus some SE/PE/RME, so they drop at least 6 subjects.   But in 1st Year they are doing History/Geography/MS on rotation so they are only getting a snapshot look at these subjects, more to see if they like them than anything else. The subjects they choose will be hugely influenced by whether or not they like the teachers.  If they decide to do 2 sciences, chances are they’ll only choose one of this group.  If they are reasonably academic, they will have to drop subjects they quite enjoy such as art or FT. 

We were originally told that the children would be able to pick up subjects in 4th year that they might have dropped in 2nd year, but this is looking unlikely and would probably present a timetabling nightmare.  I’m not sure that I’ve expressed this too well but I feel that the general broad education for which Scotland is famous may suffer at the expense of the need for good exam results.  And perhaps at the need for a school to rise up the league tables.   

Well, back to those maps.

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2 thoughts on “Too little too soon?

  1. Just found your blog -and think it’s great. As a teacher, parent and new education blogger, I think we have a lot in common.

    One of the big issues under discussion right now is curricular reform -and your perspective as a parent is key to that. As a parent and teacher I often feel torn between the two perspectives. Hearing someone talk directly, albeit sympathetically, from the parent angle is enormously useful.

    I would certainly be delighted should any of my pupil’s parents want further information about what we hope pupils are covering in their study time.

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