Thursday, 20 October 2011

What is the purpose of education?

My name is Katie O’Reilly and I am studying primary education (BEd) specialising in early childhood studies at Plymouth University. I am very passionate about the education of children of all abilities, not just the children who are gifted and talented or have special educational needs.
I love learning (even if I am not very good at it) but I just love it. In school I was always sat at the front of the class in awe of what I was learning; I was not a particularly gifted or an academic person but I was very hard working. Unfortunately this was not enough when I reached in secondary education, I wasn’t very charismatic and was very shy which meant that I eventually disappeared to back of the classroom. Out of sight, out of mind.

Then there was that one moment in education that changed my life forever. I was pulled aside by my religious education teacher in year 11 and was told that I was not allowed to take my RE GCSE as I was not deemed ‘capable’. My face must have been a picture because my teacher said, “You’re acting like this is a surprise to you. Give me one reason why I should even consider entering you into the exam?” My reply: “I love RE.” My teacher gave me that this-does-not-wash-with-me look. This ‘look’ provoked my angry parents to book a meeting with my teacher. When we entered the room for this meeting the teacher stood up from his desk and strode straight over to my father and shook his hand and said, “Hello Mr O’Reilly, I’m Mr TG and used to be a barrister.” What more should I add? This meeting consisted of a discussion about my evident interest in religious education, apparently I used to clock watch in the RE lessons and I never used to put up my hand to contribute in the lessons. Little did this man know that in my own time I was very passionate about woman’s Islamic rights in Saudi Arabia and that I was reading all the literature that I could get my hands on about the subject. In my eyes I could not see how memorising the definitions of words such as ‘omnipotent’ and ‘omniscience’ as relevant to the religion in the world. It was no wonder I was bored in the lessons!

My mother eventually convinced my RE teacher to enter me into the year 10 mock test. When I received my results, I was told by my RE teacher (with his eyes to the floor) that I had received the highest score in the year and had earned myself an A*! My teacher then told me he had entered me into my GCSE exam and then turned on his heel and left the room. No apology or even an offer of congratulations was made! At that moment I knew that the education system needed to change.
A painting of my Dad painted by my sister.
People like me are not academically bright and really struggle to prove ourselves. Take my sister for example, she is severely dyslexic (it took years to diagnose) and struggles to get her b’s and d’s the right way round but she can paint a canvas so lifelike that it takes your breath away. My father, also dyslexic and can barely read and write, has just designed and built a house that is truly unique (he built it on top of a river in which the river runs underneath the structure). 

We should be encouraging children to be themselves and enhance the gifts that they have already been given. During my education I felt that a lot of what I learnt was irrelevant and uninspiring and did not prepare me for the world outside. However this RE teacher inspired me to make schools a better place for those pupils deemed average. I may have additional needs when it comes to comprehending information and writing but I do make up for it by having enough ambition and motivation to improve and reflect on my own practice.  

So then, what is the current purpose of Education?
To be continued...