The nurture room

An interesting watch about children that struggle in the average classroom setting.

Education or happiness?

I have just finished watching these two documentaries by the BBC. They follow the lives of three Welsh teenagers who go and live with a South Korean family for three days and follow their South Korean counterparts at their day at school.

I have to admit the South Korean education system shocked me. The amount of time these children/teenagers spend studying is mind – blowing. Yes, they do receive some of the best grades in the world and are undoubtedly highly academically intelligent but it is no surprise considering how much effort they put in to be the best they can possibly be.

Pupils sit in the same seat in the same classroom for around 10 hours a day. The style of teaching differs from that here in the UK as students are simply told how to do something, they memorise it and that’s that. There are no questions asked, no discussions in the classroom but rather silence and concentration. There is a real emphasis on getting good grades and going to the top university so much so that students often spend around 5 to 6 hours after school at private evening institutions for further academic tutoring or conduct their own self study. Students often wait to go into the library as it is so busy and children as young as 10 can be seen studying till around 10 in the evening.

Emphasis is placed on being the best rather than on being happy. Although academically South Korea do very well, they rank very low on the “are you happy?” scale. In the documentary a university student was asked about his high school experience. He stated how he had lost a few friends due to suicide due to the high levels of stress their families had put them under. South Korea has some of the highest suicide rates in the world, which seems like no surprise after hearing of their tiresome, long, strenuous days.

They have no time for social activities, no opportunities to be creative, no time to play or listen to music or to attend concerts and enjoy the arts because they study so much. There is often not much time for sleep either, with the headmaster claiming 6 hours was more than sufficient. I personally feel that if my brain was drilled of information for 16 hours a day i would like a little more than 6 hours sleep before cramming in more information the next day.

However, is it really all bad? culturally South Korea is very different to the UK and America. All families see the up most importance in education and do all they can to provide the best educations for their children. This may mean moving across the country in order to attend the best schools or working long hours to earn the money to send their child to the private tutor sessions after school. It is a social norm for families to not see each other due to long working hours yet, in the western world family time is viewed as almost more important than education.

Although some choose to pay to send their child the independent, private institutions in the UK and America. Most send their children to state schools. Yet, in South Korea it is uncommon for a child to not attend some form of private education. It s evident that South Korean parents want what is best for their children and they go to great extends for their children to achieve this.

Something I admired from the documentary was the respect teachers had in South Korea. There was a statue of a man who had said that the king and teachers are equal, something you would never hear in the western world. Instead teachers are paid low wages, are disrespected by students, often frowned upon by society and yet are under enormous amounts of pressure and work hard! It is a real honour to become a teacher in South Korea due to the high status and job security yet ambitions to become teachers in the UK are not quite to the same level.

It seems as though the South Korean education system does have its flaws yet times are changing. They are encouraging students to be more creative from a younger age and have introduced sport into schools. Following by the western example of allowing children to be more free. But, the South Koreans seem to have ambition that puts the rest of the world to shame. Perhaps this is something we need to drill into our children a little more.

The documentary can be found below:

 

Speech and Language

Yesterday I attended a guest lecture regarding speech and language development. The lecture was interesting and informative and provided me with an insight on practitioners views of a speech and language therapist. It was interesting to see how strongly practitioners felt about having speech and language therapists in preschool settings.

The lecture itself focused on the lecturers research project in which a band 5 speech and language therapist was invited to attend weekly workshops with groups of preschool children at 4 preschools in a county in the UK. She discussed the reason behind the research – the reason being that the speech and language skills in school are not quite as good as they were 2 to 3 years ago. The change has been significant and therefore something needs to be done before it is too late. The target was therefore on preschool children that were about to begin school. The idea was that if speech and language skills are improved at a young age then it’ll cost the government less in the future.

The research, like most, wasn’t without its problems. Speech and language therapists are trained in clinical settings on a one on one basis with the child. However, this research required a speech and language therapist to work with a group of preschool children, in 4 different, diverse and challenging preschool settings rather than a nice, quiet, pleasant room. Evidently, the newly qualified speech and language therapist struggled greatly and quit the research project within a month, delaying the speech and language intervention process. There was also poor parental response, commitment and engagement from parents which made the study challenging. However, there a ways this could be improved. Social media is very prominent in today’s society. Although I am still very much on the fence about the idea of children using technology I am all for parents getting involved in the online community. The internet is a great way to share and view ideas and educate yourself. Facebook, in particular, is a very popular site. Why not post videos on a secured, private Facebook page for adults to view whilst their flicking through their timeline in the evening, or private message them, post on their wall reminding them to attend a meeting tomorrow. Alternatively, send them a text. Most adults (and adolescents) are glued to their phones 24/7. Hold meeting straight after schools or school events so that parents are already at school and don’t have the chance to run away. What I am trying to say is that there are ways to overcome parental disengagement.

However, one of the possibilities for the lack of parental support of the speech and language study was due to the stigma surrounding speech and language therapists. Many parents are under the assumption that speech and language therapists are only for children who have definite problems. However, in the case of this study the focus was on ALL preschool children. Not just those with problems. There are a lack of speech and language therapists in the UK which leads to them being in high demand, but, the results of this study show the importance of having speech and language therapists for ALL children. The results were incredibly positive. All the children in all the 4 preschools showed improved language ability by the end of the study after having weekly sessions in a group environment with the therapist. If we are serious about targeting speech and language problems from a young age then group speech and language sessions within preschool settings seems to be the way forward. Perhaps a consideration of how speech and language therapists are trained also needs to be taken into account. For example, they should be trained in dealing with children in groups situations as well as in different environments such as churches where the acoustics are different to everyday life, or outside or simply within a classroom setting.

It is evident that something needs to be done sooner rather than later in order to prevent more speech and language problems in the future. The question is however when will these changes take place and when will the Government listen to expert research that shows something extraordinary.

Classroom or dance studio…

The classroom isn’t for all children.

I just finished watching a programme called ‘The Tiny Tots Talent Agency’ and was blown away by the enthusiasm one of the children had for Musical Theatre. The young boy had ADHD and Autism which prevented him from going to mainstream school which resulted in his mother home schooling him. The mother explained how if she made her lessons active her son would be engaged but, as soon as a lesson involved picking up a pen and writing, he had no interest. What fascinated me was how much potential the boy had in dance. Instead of being cooped up in a classroom, the mother followed her sons dream to perform and enrolled him in part time dance lessons. Unlike in school, the boy excelled. He was praised. He was aloud to be loud. He was aloud to dance whenever he wanted. He was happy.

The programme follows him as he attends an audition at the prestigious London dance school – Pineapple Dance Studios. It is evident that he loves what he is doing and is happy to be there so it’s no surprise he is awarded a place. The theatre school focuses purely on Musical Theatre with no formal academic lesson given.

What particularly captured me about this story was that in school the boy was seen as a failure and unwilling to learn but as soon as he was dancing and being active, all the troubles went away. It made me think how many children out there are simply misunderstood. Yes, education is important but, for some children being active holds more importance. I’m not saying that children shouldn’t be taught to read and write but what I am saying is that more children need to be given the chance to excel in non – academic areas. If schools were to place more of an emphasis on sports, physical education, music, drama and dance then I feel that more children would feel as though they are achieving highly in something. Some are good at maths whilst others are good at drama. Too much of an emphasis is placed on academic skills but there is more to life than times tables. Let children be active. Classes don’t need to be restricted to sitting at a desk, take children outside, let them run free and see what they discover in the environment around them.

http://www.channel4.com/programmes/the-tiny-tots-talent-agency/on-demand/61665-004

Playground Vs Classroom

The playground is a place full of wonder, imagination, fun, activity and laughter whereas the classroom is a place of concentration, learning and development, or so we thought…

Recent research has shown that brain development in children is more likely to occur in the playground rather than in the classroom. ┬áResearcher Sergio Pellis has stated that play changes the connections of the neurons in the pre – frontal cortex of the brain. These connections allow for children to develop the skills they need for school work and life in general. He also states how by ‘play’ he means free play, play with no rules, instructions, guidance or interference. Instead he suggests children should be left to their own devices when in the playground, as this is the best way for the brain to develop.

Play develops a child’s social skills and by allowing children to play freely with one another improvements in social interaction will occur as will further neural connections which will ultimately lead to better academic performance at school.

So why are we still confining children to the classroom?!

There has been plenty of research to broadcast the importance of children having time to play outside yet it is often over looked and we simply carry on doing things the way they have always been done. I believe it’s time for a change. Of course I believe children should be educated but I strongly feel more outdoor play needs to take place in order to stimulate children’s brain development and improve mental health and well being.

http://www.sunnyskyz.com/positive-good-news.php?newsid=801%2FScientists-