Introduction


The UK, throughout the world, is renowned for having one of the best education systems in the world. Thousands across the world flock to the UK for education. Out of the top ten universities in the world, four of them are British. Nations across the world look for British graduates for high positions in many institutions and businesses.


But under all this achievement and championing of the education system, lies a less glamorous reality. If uncovered, it is the reality that would make the average person call for urgent and immediate reform. And this is what I will be covering in this article, how our education, as good as it seems on the surface, needs complete reform.


The Unnecessary Need for Competition and its Effects


As anyone involved in the education system knows, both students, teachers and politicians alike, the next generation will be smarter and more capable than the last, and the generation after will be even smarter than the last two. But why is that? And surely, if we have the best universities and graduates in the world, we wouldn't need to put effort to create smarter students, would we?



This is where a small bit of geopolitics comes into play. The rise of Chinese and Indian students, who are remarkable in their capabilities, have entered into the global market in the past few decades. With this new competition from the East, the UK is trying to up their students to the new standards to maintain a superior economy in the world. Therefore, this is causing more and more academic pressure on UK students and this can be noticed in the ever-increasing workload and demanding exams.


Consequences


This involvement of geopolitics in the education system has been detrimental to the student population of the UK. Students, as young as eight years old, are going through rigorous standardised testing. The suicide rate in ten to twenty-four-year-olds has increased twenty-five per cent from 2017 to 2018 and this rate might be even higher at the time of writing this article. There has also been a worsening of mental health in high school students and it is the primary reason for the government's urgent push for better mental health in schools.


A-Levels and University have been made an automatic default for the vast majority of students. This undermines the core essence of universities as being a place reserved for those with an academic mindset. This forceful nudge to attend universities also causes degrees and other university qualifications to lose value. The dilemma is if more than fifty per cent of the population has a degree, what makes someone with a degree incentivising to hire? In fact, there are more technical graduates then there are job openings for their respective qualifications in the USA. Since America is the leading economy in the world, this pattern may replicate itself on a smaller scale here in the UK.


A Solution


In an ideal world, I would lessen the focus on our GDP, a simple line on a graph, for which we are sacrificing the well being of students. I would try and implement a Scandinavian approach to education. In my opinion, it is a relaxed style of education that does not put a strain on students but at the same time, it does not create inadequate students.


The Scandinavian nations are one of the best developed in the world and have the most stable economies. Sure, they may not be world players in the global economy. But, I would rather want my children to have stable well-being than being put into a grind to increase GDP, a number that the government prefers to flaunt around.


This way, we can reduce the ever-increasing workload and pressure of the students. Overworked students are never the best students, so I believe reducing the workload will produce a better result in the long run. This will also allow students' mental health to be in a prime condition, compared to its present state.


To attest my observations, I would like to present a brief comparison of Swedish schools and British schools.

  • In British schools, children sit externally marked tests. Whereas in Swedish schools, their performance is marked by their teachers and I believe that this approach is more personalised and is not target driven. This allows all children to perform well in their way, rather than identify a few bright students through a standardised lens.

  • In Britain, compulsory education commences when a child reaches four years of age. However, in Sweden, children are expected to start education at the age of seven. Sweden's approach delays the onset of academic pressure being exerted onto children from a young age. If we were to implement this in Britain, this might cause problems for working. Hence, I would propose non-compulsory preschools and nurseries available for all children from the age of four years.

  • The Swedish education system is decentralised, meaning the local school authorities can tailor their curriculum to provide relevant lessons and education. However, the federal government does set a standardised set of goals and objectives for the local authorities to follow.

As mentioned previously, I am of the opinion that choosing to attend universities for further education should not be impelled as a default option. I believe that universities should be reserved only for pupils who what to pursue a career in Medicine, Law etc. I would recommend rolling out awareness campaigns to inform students of alternative ways to further education and career paths post sixth form or college.


A commendable reform would be the reopening the polytechnics, which are an alternative to universities. Polytechnics were institutions distinct from universities that offered 'STEM' subjects but also subjects such as computer science, architecture, management, business, accounting, journalism and town planning. Polytechnics in the 90s were converted into universities or merged with other nearby universities. If polytechnics made a return, they would offer students a less strenuous but still equally as valuable tertiary education in a trade or professional jobs.


However, issues will arise if students do not earn sufficient qualifications and training to perform a job efficiently. Prime importance should be given to maintaining job role standards to ensure that students working with a good ethos. For example, to be a practising doctor, one should need to be rigorously trained and have a degree in a medical science granted by a university, not a polytechnic.


The Overworking of School Staff


We cannot bring reform to our education system without addressing the issues faced by the teaching personnel. Teaching faculties are overburdened. They work 51 hours a week on average, the fourth-longest hours worked out of thirty-five surveyed countries, and twenty-five per cent of teachers work over sixty hours per week. The drastic figures do not even include hours they work marking exams and all the informal school work they bring home On top of this, UK primary school classrooms are one of the largest in the developed world, which can lead to a larger workload for the teachers, on top of a larger class that will be finicky to manage during lessons.



Consequences


Overworked teachers hamper a student's education. An overworked teacher cannot produce a good quality lesson. Too many students in one classroom increase the teacher's workload as well as negatively affect students trying to learn. It can also lead to students being demotivated to work if the teacher is not engaging and focusing enough with their class.


When I was a school, I remember having to wait weeks for one test result to come back, as my teachers would be pre-occupied with work from other classes. I consulted a classmate from Canada about this and he took me by surprise when he mentioned that back in his country, he could get a test result back in a matter of hours.


Potential Remedies


We could promote homeschooling to mainstream parents. Homeschooling would allow classroom sizes to decrease and take the extra burden off of teachers as well. A downside to this solution is that the teaching quality may go down and that children won't be able to develop their social skills as they would not around other children often as they would be in public education.


There is also an urgent need to hire more teachers. Increasing the teaching faculty numbers would result in decreasing the workload for every single teacher. To motivate the general public to choose teaching as a profession, we would incentivise them in several ways.


Firstly, tax exemptions can be offered as they are public servants. Secondly, there should be a raise in pay for teachers as British teachers are already below the OECD average in terms of teacher's pay.

I also believe that the involvement of assistant staff in teaching should be increased. For example, while the teacher is teaching the class, the assistant staff member can assist students that are struggling and falling behind. This approach would utilize the staff's complete potential and increase classroom efficiency.



We can also recruit more teachers by temporarily adopting an old hiring policy. Earlier, a person with no formal teaching qualifications could apply for a job at school. As long as they knew a certain topic at an expert level, they would be eligible to teach that certain subject. By relaxing the hiring rules, we will eliminate the need for an extensive teacher training period, which may off put a lot of people from teaching and this would allow a broader range of people to enter teaching.


In hindsight, there will be an overall decrease in teaching quality, due to the lack of training. However, this solution can be used merely as a "quick fix" until we can recruit more professionally trained teachers if need be.

Conclusion


A one-size-fits-all cannot be applied to statewide, compulsory education. Unfortunately, every education system in the world faces issues that are unique to its country. Even systems, as utopian as the ones seen as in Scandinavia, have room for improvement.


Even after implementing reforms that I propose, I believe that the education system will encounter new unseen issues compared to its current familiar issues. Hence, my final recommendation should never take the state of our education system for granted. We must always stay vigilant to ensure our education system is the best for our children and for future generations to come.


With a new virus in town, we are being bombarded with so much news about it. While staying informed is essential, it’s hard to find reliable information.


It has, unfortunately, become common for false news to be spread like wildfire due to social media and extensive news coverage of things happening around the world. The consequences of believing opinions as facts can be both silly and dramatic. It might just result in a laugh among your friends or it might also end up in mass hysteria, which can be quite dangerous.


Thinking critically is a fine skill you need to have for both academic and real life reasons. Being able to analyse and evaluate information can get you good grades in higher levels of education. However, it can also keep you safe, sound and successful in real life as well.


Critical thinking can simply be understood as being able to judge the information you have in front to decide how accurate, reliable and trustworthy is that information. While writing essays in school, it can help you present arguments from various perspectives. In real life, it can help you make tough decisions, avoid getting manipulated and solve problems.


So, how exactly can you think critically?


1) Acknowledge what you know


Bring the pieces of information forward in your mind and rewind it in a glance. Ask yourself from where did you get this information and assess how trustworthy is the source of information. Unfortunately, some sources are more trustworthy than others and we believe you can make that judgement for yourself.


2) Question the information


Do not take the information for a fact. Ask yourself about the assumptions the information relies on. What else needs to be true for the information to be true? Is there something that you blindly assumed about the information? What aspect of the information are you dead sure about? You get the gist. Ask questions.


3) Acknowledge your own biases


Understandably, each individual has their prejudices, which can result in cognitive biases. It would be really hard to eliminate these biases from your thought processes because most of them could be unconscious i.e., you don’t even know that you have them.


Hence, it important to acknowledge at least the ones that you are aware of. Over a period of time, you will be able to easily catch yourself believing something to be true only because it favours your preferences.


4) Consider your take


Evaluating information you received from elsewhere is great but what do you personally think about it? If a newspaper is saying X and a news channel is saying Y, what do you think you should believe? What do you think about their takes? Is there something you can add to the information they are giving? Think.


5) Do not disregard a conclusion you don’t like


Sometimes, after thinking critically, you might arrive at a conclusion that causes cognitive dissonance i.e., it makes you feel uncomfortable. Imagine if you found out for yourself that the friend you have become close with was only trying to use you for something you have to offer? How would you feel? Most of us would rather believe that what we found out is wrong because it makes us feel uncomfortable.


However, in the long run, you will thank yourself for trusting the truth and keeping a distance from that friend than ignore the truth as if you couldn’t see it.



Hopefully, we have been able to give you a good idea about critical thinking. We would advise you to not beat yourselves up for not being able to get it right or even remembering to think critically all the time. Because thinking critically is a skill that you build with time. The more you stretch your thought muscles, the stronger they will be with time.



Exam season is approaching and we guess everyone’s got their schedules jam packed. We wish you a very berry all the best for your exams! We know you have heard this before from us but don’t stress out and study till dawn. Relax and give your best!


So, let’s get to the actual thing. Maths. The ever so complex numbers and letters flying around….you’ll no longer need to bother with it once you are out of school? We mean, where would you actually need to refer to sin cos tan after school, right? Right? Wrong.


Bad news: It’s everywhere. Its running our world.

Good news: It’s not as complex as we think.

So, let’s see where you might see eye to eye with Maths in real life. Some of these might be obvious and some of these might be things you already do but didn’t know that Maths was involved. Here we go!


1. Weather



Go ahead and say “Alexa,what’s the weather like?” and she’ll tell you there’s 51% chance of rain today in your area. Then you wonder, what does it mean? 51%? Will it rain for sure or not? Ugh.

The name of the game is probability. Since weather forecasters cannot exactly predict the weather, they use probability to find the odds of rain and sunshine. In this case, the forecaster looked at similar days like today in the past and has determined that it is as likely as 51% that it will rain today. Read the maths behind it here.


2. Shopping Discounts



You, us and everyone wants to get the best price. So, head out and see that you get 20% student discount in a store. Yes, maths is here again. Don’t be so quick to whip out your phone and use the calculator though. You can easily do this in your head, while you browse around the store.


3. Baking



Your birthday cake wouldn’t be very yummy if the person who made it didn’t want to do anything with Maths. Guess, to win the The Great British Bake Off, you’ll have to understand a thing or two about numbers. Here’s how to win with Maths.


4. Time and Scheduling



You’ll have to figure out when you should begin your study session to make sure you watch the game on telly sharp at 8 pm. Whether you realise or not, you are doing basic maths in your head. Yes, you should begin at quarter to 5 pm. You just used fractions, bazinga!


5. Sports



To decide for yourself whether the cup is coming home or not, you need Maths. No, we are not kidding. Most sports, such as football, require a basic understanding of speed, angles and shapes. If you are a football fan, you might have already figured that out but if you want to read some actual research on it, read here.


Maths has so many more real life applications and the list is not exhaustive. You don't have to know them all but all you need to know is that there is no reason to be scared of it. We'll see you next time with another informative blog post. Meanwhile, remember what we said. Don't stress and give your best!

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