May I say that when I hear parents say that they will send their young children to live on the other side of the world on their own to make them independent, it makes me sad and concerned. That is a very extreme decision. Teenagers as very vulnerable and it has always been shown that it is by providing them stability, security and love that they will develop into confident adults. It is likely to have a detrimental effect and although a child’s independence may be achieved by sending them away, the possible negative impact needs to also be taken into serious consideration.
A lot of research has been carried out to look at what skills students will need for future jobs, as most of the jobs that your children will have, do not exist yet – the world is changing so rapidly that we have to give young people the skills they will need to cope with the unknown market and jobs of tomorrow. When I was young, I sat in lessons, listened to teachers speaking about a topic and then copied notes. I would then learn the facts before being tested on what I had memorised. It rarely involved thinking, being evaluative, analytical or reflective. I rarely worked as a member of a team. There were no other criteria except whether an answer was right or wrong. Our British curriculum now is very different as it aspires to give students personal learning and thinking skills to equip them for the ever-shifting world of the future. The ultimate goal of the British Curriculum is to help develop intellectually-curious, flexible, independent learners and for teachers to be there to enable the learning.
There has been a shift in education that has been more than necessary to keep up with technology and, in particular, with the fact that knowledge is now readily available but increasing exponentially; using that available knowledge has become the challenge. Textbooks for most subjects are no longer that relevant, because as soon as they are printed, in most subjects they then are out of date. The Internet can give us plenty of additional information, so long as we also teach children to be discerning in what they read.
Traditionally, we used to think that to be a good teacher, we had to stand by our students and do everything for them. Teachers used to feel that they had to do all the talking, if we did not stand at the front leading the lesson, then we were not doing a good job. Now, if a teacher is talking more than between 10 to 20% of the lesson then, we would generally consider this not to be a good lesson, well planned or delivered. Why? Because if the teacher is talking, the students are passive and therefore they are not learning as much as if they are leading the lesson and thereby developing the skills to become independent. So, we have moved to what we call interactive learning, where the students are inputting into at least 80% of the lesson. This could be in large groups, small groups or individually. But this can only happen if we give students the right tools to feel confident to lead and take responsibility for their own learning.
Most of the time, there are 3 phases that need to take place in order to give a child the confidence to do something independently. This applies in lessons at school as well as activities at home. The first phase is to model what they need to do. Then phase 2 is to practise with them and then, phase 3, is to believe that they can do it alone. The third phase is often the phase that parent or teacher find the most difficult to carry out, as they often underestimate what a child can do and/or don’t trust them to be able to do it. By underestimating what children can do, we hinder their development and ability to cope alone. We often have an overwhelming need to protect them and maybe, unconsciously, we also want them to need us!
When I first arrived in Vietnam, I noticed how many students were worried about getting something wrong. But we actually encourage students to take risks, we teach them that it is OK to fail, that what is important is to try. As William Edward Hickson a British educationalist from the 19th century said, “if at first you don't succeed; try, try, try again”. So this is not new.
In school and at home, children need to be shown and given the confidence to acquire the essential skills to operate independently. They need to be allowed to try and to fail if they are to grow up into confident independent young people who are able to excel in the world of tomorrow.
Mrs Sarah Wild - Head of Secondary