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Michael Gove proposes austere education reforms with longer days and shorter holidays…

It seems fitting to echo the words of Britain’s late influential leader, Margaret Thatcher. But I think it’s safe to say Thatcher has received enough press coverage recently, and so moving on in line with the latest news of the day, I want to discuss the Education Secretary Michael Gove’s new plans for longer school days and shorter holidays.

No this is not a concocted piece from the Daily Mash – you can find his proposals here if you don’t quite believe me.

So, to summarise Gove wants to lengthen the hours children spend at school whilst simultaneously cutting the length of their holidays. The motive? To update the education in keeping with 21st century dvelopments, that is – adapting to suit parents working hours and to match the competitive rise of Asian countries who place a large emphasis on academic work and study time.

I’m not quite sure if I can agree with his generalisation that in having shorter school days and holidays we are starting the global race with “a significant handicap”. Admittedly, Asia is globally on the up – and it’s a force to be reckoned with. But I don’t necessarily agree that this means we should blanket copy their methods; these policies scream of their lack of imagination (rather ironic given Gove’s role to inspire and invigorate the education system).  Asia is undoubtedly doing well – but has Gove taken any consideration as to the considerations of students? As a university students I’ve come across many Asian international students, and yes their work ethic is highly admirable, but desirable? Perhaps not. I admit that this is a large generalisation and does not apply to all Asian students, but a significant amount spend far less time socialising and much more time revising which brings into question: is that healthy for one’s emotional, physical and pyschological well being? I’m not so sure. I doubt Gove would be either.

More importantly, Gove is completely ignoring different cultures – I would argue that Asian societies place a greater emphasis on time spent doing academic work. But that’s not to say that by contrast we are culturally lazy, we just have a different approach.After all, studies have shown that after 20 minutes you lose effective concentration – I can’t see how adding another two hours on to a child’s school day will help. But I don’t mean to sound critical of Asia’s system, it’s just a different way of approaching things – one I’m struggling to accept because of my cultural mindset. Similarly, having different approaches is important – diversity in a global economy is vital, if we just blanket copy Asia’s approach (an approach they have mastered for years) chances are we won’t pull it off as well, not initially anyway, and we’ll lag even further behind than we apparently already are, according to Gove.

His method behind the madness is to help parents. This is a valid point – the working day does work well with the school day, causing many parents (I myself have been a product of this system) forking out more money to fund after school clubs.

However, with longer hours and longer holidys presumably Gove is going to have to find some extra funding somewhere – why not divert the extra money into beneficial vocational or extracurricular activities. Yes education is important, but extra activities such as sports and cooking actually help to shape a child’s overall well being and general education. Asia’s children may be able to regurgitate a book better than Britain’s, but that doesn’t mean they have the upper hand when it comes to other skills and qualities necessary not only to personal growth, but also when they have to join the working world. Extra hours, if urgently required to support parents, would be better spent participating in social activities which will help a child to gain confidence, communication and teamwork skills which will arguably maintain their position on Gove’s anxious global race.

But I’m still not sure that longer hours is the way forward. Having only just left my childhood youth behind me, I can still remember in the winter periods rushing home as quickly as possible after the bell at 3pm to make it back home before darkness sets in. I wonder how many parents, or more importantly children, would feel about walking home in the pitch black at 5 or 6pm. Not only that, consider the impact in every day life. 5-6pm: RUSH HOUR. I’m sure many Londoner’s will tell you a crammed tube is barely manageable at 5pm; now imagine a load of school children trying to hop on at the same time. Unless Gove is planning on a radical up haul of the transport system, I think he may need to rethink his plans and consider the wider impact on society as a whole.

I’m interested on what other people’s opinions on this are. I’ve provided a poll below, but please feel free to comment – even if you completely disagree!

Thanks,

SR.

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