Why Go to School?
MATTHEW: Lesley, you're a teacher. How does the English school system work?
LESLEY: Um, well, first of all most children start school at the age of five and they
can't leave school until the age of sixteen , which is just , you know , the age
the age of five until eleven. . . um, and previously they used to take an e~even
plus examination which would then determine whether they would go to a grammar
school or alternatively a secondary modern school. But now we have a... a new
systen where children aren't divided off at the age of eleven and will go into a
comprehensive system ofschooling, and. . . will do the things that they're best
able to do at certain ages and if they want to take the exams they are able to
at. . . at the age of sixteen.
MATTHEW: Do you think that's a . . . an improvement to th system?
LESLEY: Well,... mm, theoretically... it's supposed t be much better because it gives. . .
it stops separating children off at the age of eleven and gives them a
better chance, and in fact what usually happens is that those children who
wouldn't. . . er who would have gone to a grammar school tend to be at the
top end of the comprehensive system, and those that would have gone to
secondarymodern school find themselves at the lower levels of the school.
MAT'THEW: Do you think that the present school system is an efficient way of
LESLEY Mm. . . well if you , if you accept that , you know , there have to be schools,
it seems to work fairly efficiently. Of course one of our great problems in
England is that we have very large cl'asses and. . . um, it would be very nice
in a class, there are only twenty. . . mm and so that each child gets more
individual attention so that their own particular needs just aren't passed over.
MATTHEW Do you think the. . . the subjects that er. . . children study today are
adapted to present-day society?
LESLEY It would be very good if... er, more children at school had the opportunity of
learning about the society they live in... in economic terms and in social
terms , so that they are much more aware of the problems that we face today.
But I also think that education isn't only something that has to be. . . has
to be relevant. . . um, I think education can be just a. .. a gradual
extension of one self , and I don't think it's um. . . importarit for
subjects to be seen only in terms of how useful they are when you leave
school. . . but how much you enjoy them and how much they mean to you.
MATTHEW David, what would you do in an average day at school?
DAVID Um... it mainly consists of English and Maths, which takes up a lot of the
lesson time and then. . . um. . . like on Mondays , for example. . .er,
we would do ...er, I don't know, Maths, English, Art, History and then
Tuesdays would be some more English, probably ... um, His tory , Reiigious
studies , Physics , whatever taking now which is `O' level , which is... is
nine subjects in all.
MATTHEW I see, so you can choose. . . the subject you want to take for 'O' level...
You don't have to take. . . every subject in the schdol?
DAVID No,.... no, no.
MATTHEW What about games. . . er and drama and things like that?
DAVID We have about an hour and a half of games a week, and for about an hour a week
we. . . do a. . . a thing known as er. . . social studies, which is
um... it's a kind of a cross-section of... er what life wili be after we
we leave school. . . Um. . . where we do drama. .. a . . . we study
ecology,sociology et cetera... Um, it's not 'O' level, we don't take an 'O'
level in it, it's just for er... expersence.
MATTHEW janet, do you... think that your daughters gain a tremendous amount from
JANET I think they. . . they gain a certain amount of um... necessary knowledge,
yes,but I wish it was broader. I wish that instead of being driven
towards passing exams that they had, certainly at this stage of adolescence' ,
the chance to really broaden their outlook' completely and not feel this
necessity to read towards passing an exam , to collecting a piece
of paper at the end of it.
MATTHEW Er. . . do you have any specific ways in which you think. . . time at
school could be improved?
JANET Yes , I think there could be a. . . a lot more encouragement in doing
things for their own sake, for getting the satisfaction out of them... um,
rather than this 'rat race' that everybody's forced into. . . um... for what
is achieved at the end. I think . . . a lot more should be done to encourage
people to get the value out of it themselves.
MATTHEW Do you think that er. . . education is just something that takes place
inside a school building , or is . it a. . . an activity which takes
place not only outside but right the way through your life?
JANET I think it starts the moment you're born, and . . . er... that it's going on
all around you. It's notjust taking place in a school building. . .
um it should be. . . part of your whole life.
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