Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Underschooling and overschooling

I found myself having heretical thoughts in the Global Campaign for Education meeting yesterday. Is there too much schooling around these days?

Not in the Third World, I hasten to add: the Campaign's call for all children to receive at least primary education is obviously right. There were all sorts of impressive figures bandied about - every extra year of education adds 10 per cent to a child's eventual income.

No, I was thinking of the West, where schooling lasts for ever and increasing numbers of youngsters seem disaffected from it. I have heard tales from people who have taught in Africa of children lying in wait for the honour of carrying the teacher's bag to school for her. You could not imagine that happening in Britain.

Another inversion between the West and the Third World is that in the latter everyone is exercised about the need to get more girls into education and keep them there. The education of girls, and thus future mothers, is central to achieving some of the Millennium Development Goals for health, yet girls' education is often sacrificed when times are hard.

In the West, by contrast, girls are racing ahead and attempts to interest boys in reading now make prime-time television.

You can never have too much education, but education is not identical with schooling. I wonder if our problem is that children the Third World are underschooled and that in the West they are overschooled,


Bernard Salmon said...

I wonder if the problem is not so much under and overschooling, but in what we expect our schools to do. In the UK at least, schools have been turned into exams factories, with students being trained to pass these. Any learning which may take place is incidental to that purpose. In contrast, and this may be a massive generalisation, in many poorer countries, learning often seems to be valued for its own sake.

Anonymous said...

exactly what is overschooling?