Never Mind the Three Rs – What About The Three Cs?

So I ‘m sick to death of hearing about the golden age of learning when pupils were taught the ‘3 R ‘s ‘ of reading, writing and arithmetic even though only one of them starts with ‘r ‘. So much for the golden age.

I ‘ve got a better idea. What about the ‘3 C ‘s ‘ of comprehension, calculation and confidence?

Comprehension is more important than spelling or grammar, because it deals with meaning, with ideas, which should be what language is all about. It ‘s not an end in itself; its purpose is to carry thought from one brain to another. I had a teacher who made us memorise multi-syllablled words when we had no notion of their sense or significance. What a complete and painful waste of time!

Continue reading “Never Mind the Three Rs – What About The Three Cs?”

Teach Skills, Not Subjects!

The title to this blog has been my personal mantra for many a year now. It started as a suspicion in the back of my mind as I pondered my own wasted school experience. But now I’m ready to shout it to all who want to listen.

Traditional education is a failure because its focus is on teaching information about subjects. We are expected to memorise this information and then regurgitate it in an artificial exam setting. Our reward for this exercise in tedium is a pretty bit of paper certificate. The actual information we forget at our earliest possible convenience. Any skills we happen to pick up that might be of use after school are secondary, almost an accidental by-product of the process. Continue reading “Teach Skills, Not Subjects!”

Book Worm or Computer Nerd?

Are we ready to say bye to books was the provocative title of a BBC article last Friday on Kindle DX, an e-reading device nearly as big as an A4 sheet of paper. After spending some time discussing how it will work and how much it will cost, the article never really gets round to answering its own question.

Dawn did a better job in her blog this week of weighing up the pros and cons. For her, it all boils down to a matter of choice – both/and thinking, not either/or. Although from the enthusiastic feel to her blog title – The Kindle is Reborn! – I think we can sense her positive vibes towards it.

All I want to do is quote a few relevant sentences from my main man Neil Postman. Yes, I know I’ve waxed lyrical about his stuff before. But, well, its my blog, frankly. Plus a want to give another perspective from the usual technophile one that dominates the internet. Continue reading “Book Worm or Computer Nerd?”

Current Events Schedule


This term at QUB, we have three new workshops for the working professional: Assertiveness and Workplace Confidence; Managing Customer Experience and Emotional Intelligence Goes to Work. These workshops are hosted by the School of Education, Short Courses Programmes (CPD).

For eveyone else, there is the School of Education’s Open Learning Programme. This term, we’re running the following events: Continue reading “Current Events Schedule”

Dumbing Down or Smarting Up?

amazing1OK, so you’ve heard me go on for some time now about the crap (that’s a technical term) state of our education system: too narrow, goal-less, unilateral in teaching method, one-size-fits-all, target-driven, test-ravaged, non-applied, faddish, etc.

Well now it seems that someone up there in the clouds of politik-land agrees with me.

Not that I can claim personal responsibility for the proposed primary school subjects overhaul. But every little helps. What they’re planning is to replace traditional subjects with broader ‘areas of learning’ in order to give teachers more flexibility and pupils the skills they will need – and do need! – in the real world.

What caught my eye was that one of these areas is entitled understanding health and well-being. A government adviser said that there must be “greater emphasis on life skills, including making lessons about emotional well-being and social skills a compulsory part of the curriculum.” Pupils should have the “personal, social and emotional qualities essential to their health, well-being and life as a responsible citizen in the 21st Century”. Continue reading “Dumbing Down or Smarting Up?”

Shallow Hal

Yet another story about the dumbing down of education hardly warrants mention by me. Why waste time pointing out the obvious? Because this one gives us a little substance.

According to Professor Michael Shayer of King’s College London, modern education differs in two main ways from that of 30 years ago:

  • First, there is a decline in higher-level thinking skills. Pupils now lack the ability to think deeply about a topic, to refect on concepts and abstractions.
  • Second, pupils are better at reacting to new information in a speedy and shallow way. In this sense they can ‘think quicker’ than those of previous generations.

In my experience, the two are related. I know some guys who are good at memorization and rapid recall. They are quick on their feet in debates. They are the grand masters of exam passing. But when it comes to self-directed learning, creative thinking, or even post-graduate study by research, they utterly flounder. Continue reading “Shallow Hal”

Learners or Customers?

There ‘s an interesting article on the BBC website about whether students should think like customers. The thrust is that it might be dangerous because it forces cash-strapped academics to demean themselves by marketing their courses. The pain, the pain

As a training consultant and business owner, I ‘m used to making the link between customers and learners. For me, they are one and the same. When I say that I treat the learners in our workshops as ‘customers ‘, I am stating the facts. This is not to denigrate; it is to describe.

I suppose it counts as controversial in some circles, but I ‘m glad about the new link between universities and business, and the new perspective of a university as a business. Why? Continue reading “Learners or Customers?”

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Schools

Another day, another down-beat headline about education.

‘Schools told to improve or close ‘ screams the BBC headline. Almost one in five secondary schools in England is to be given a warning to improve exam results or face closure. ‘

This comes hot on the heels of the latest controversies surrounding the introduction of Diplomas to replace/supplement (no-one seems to know which) traditional A-levels. These diplomas Continue reading “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Schools”

Working Class – Heroes or Thicko(e)s?

An interesting debate broke out last week when some egg-head claimed that there is a direct relation between IQ and social class. Specifically, he said that the reason why few working class types get into the best universities is because..

higher social classes have a significantly higher average IQ than lower social classes

Read his comments here. This debate interests me for several reasons. First, as a working-class hero myself, I like to know what people think of me. But, as a critic of traditional IQ testing, I want to make a comment.

All sorts of politicians and left-wing types immediately plunged in to take a swipe at the naive academic. There were the usual shouts of prejudice and privilege. But among the furore that ensured, no-one asked the two most obvious and important questions: Continue reading “Working Class – Heroes or Thicko(e)s?”