As a philosophy of teaching, child-centred education has been a disaster. Irrespective of their political outlook, teachers need to return to the idea that education is a conservative endeavour. Applying political principles such as freedom, independence and egalitarianism to the education of children is bound to be a mistake for the simple reason that children are of a pre-political age. They are life's apprentices, and it is the responsibility of the teacher to prepare them for the privileges of a liberal existence, not to grant them such privileges prematurely. Far from being "child-centred", classrooms should be pervaded by the assumption that the adult knows what is best for the child. Today's classrooms lack any confidence in adult authority, in terms of both subject matter and discipline.
In his Biographia Literaria, Coleridge wrote, "At school I enjoyed the inestimable advantage of a very sensible though at the same time a very severe master" who sent his charges to university as "excellent Latin and Greek scholars, and tolerable Hebraists." Such an experience did not crush Coleridge's imagination, but produced one of the most creative minds in the history of English literature. Children today would be so lucky to enjoy the same advantage. Instead, progressive educators deprive them of the discipline and structure they need to become educated adults. These same progressive educators then blame the children's academic failure on their socio-economic background.
Fifteen years ago Tony Blair dedicated his first term in office to "Education, Education, Education". There is no doubting the efforts New Labour put into turning around Britain's schools: by 2008 spending on pupils had risen 55 per cent in real terms on 1997, and thousands of new schools had been built (including my own).
However, rarely in the field of human endeavour has so much effort been put into being so ineffective. Money is categorically not the answer to our educational problems. You can have all of the computers, interactive white boards and gleaming new buildings you desire, but without good teaching, no real learning will occur. For British education to improve, teachers' methods, not their resources, will have to change.
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