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:

 

A step in the right direction

Once again Finland have made a step in the right direction in terms of the way they educate their children.

They have announced that they are scrapping traditional school subjects and instead focusing on one topic and bringing subjects into the topic. Children will no longer sit row by row in desks but rather will have discussions together in groups.

I have always praised the Scandinavian/Nordic education system and I feel this new move takes it from strength to strength.

Well done Finland!

Have a read of the article below:

https://brightside.me/wonder-curiosities/finland-will-become-the-first-country-in-the-world-to-get-rid-of-all-school-subjects-259910/

Learning from pictures in infancy

Today I  was fortunate enough to attend a lecture by Dr Jeanne Shinskey from Royal Holloway, University of London.

The lecture spoke mainly of Shinskey’s research into object permanence in babies and the symbolic value of pictures and objects. She spoke of how familiarity processing is more common in younger children as their speed of processing is slower than that of older children. Most research focuses on object to real life transfer however, she looked into picture to object transfer. The 7.5 month old babies were shown either a black and white picture or a coloured picture of an object. They were then shown the real life object they had seen in the picture as well as a distractor (another) object. It was noted what object the baby went to grab first. There were two conditions in this experiment. One of which where the objects were shown to the baby and then put in to two clear plastic boxes so that the baby could see both objects and the other where the objects were placed into two boxes where the child could not see the objects. Findings suggested that colour had no impact upon the babies object preference however, changes were noted in the two conditions. In the condition where the baby could see the objects in the clear boxes the babies preferred the novelty object, the object they had not seen a picture of previously. In the hidden box condition however, the babies showed a preference for the object they had seen a picture of. This is perhaps an idea that could be researched in further detail to see why this is the case. Why is it that when the babies can see they objects they prefer novelty, yet when they can’t they prefer familiarity?

Shinskey also spoke about Picture Iconicty. Something I was not familiar of before the lecture. She used the example of childrens books and whether real life pictures or cartoon picture books were more beneficial to young children under the age of 1 in terms of learning. She found that at 15 months real life pictures in child picture books lead to more learning. Furthermore, manipulative features in books actually detract away from learning. She looked at pop up vs non pop up books in particular and found that children learnt more from non pop up books than they did pop up books. Books with flaps are also a challenge and hinder word learning. For babies and young children it is difficult to touch, look AND listen which is why pop up books/flap books are a challenge for young children. A point i had never previously thought about but makes complete sense. However, does the flap effect disappear over time? Young children tend to enjoy reading and re – reading books so as time progresses are they actually learning from picture books as the flaps and pop ups almost become ignored and irrelevant. Perhaps they’re not as bad for the child as previously suggested also, getting children reading, whatever the book may be is never a bad thing!

 

The pleasure in writing

In this day and age it’s common to see children texting their friends, tweeting their followers on Twitter or spending time writing status update on Facebook. However, have you ever considered how much time the children of the 21st Century spend with a pen in hand actually writing on a piece of paper?

Well, the BBC have produced an article which speaks of this exactly. They have found that a quarter of all pupils write only for school. This is a shocking statistic. It saddens me how such few children write outside of the school setting. Perhaps technology really is taking over. The children of the 21st century seem ¬†happy texting and typing but don’t seem so keep on actual physical writing. The real question is will putting pen to paper ever be something that fades out entirely? Will typing on a keyboard replace hold importance over the pen?

I guess we’ll have to wait and see…

(I personally feel that writing is something that should be enjoyed in any shape or form, for fun, for pleasure, for school and in the home. Children should be provided with the opportunity to express themselves through their writing and should have access to writing equipment).

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-37850743