Hundreds of kids filed into lines, herded into earnest rooms coated in an alabaster paint. The lack of character is potent and hangs solemnly in the air. Soulless, the compound strips away all individuality as we are forced into a one size fits all mould. With uniforms, protocols and environments that are built to accommodate a lucky few amongst us. What about those who aren't so lucky? Their options are two fold. They limit themselves and accept low grades due to an unfortunate draw on the neural lottery or work through stress and turmoil giving up their social freedom to hope upon hope to have fate on their side, to get even a fraction of what those who fit the mould can achieve with little to no effort. How do we deem such a system as an acceptable way to decide our futures?


1880 brought with it a law that, for the first time in the UK, made education compulsory. Children between the ages of 5 and 10 had to attend school. In the near one and a half centuries following you would expect drastic change in school as our understanding of child psychology has exponentially improved. However, a Victorian class room is not dissimilar to what we might expect today. Children forced into neat rows completing tedious, and often futile tasks, coping copious information from the board. Sounds familiar? It is a gross disservice that we still force children into the same boxes as we did to those in the Victorian era. Every other aspect of society has made strides to innovate and evolve but school has been left in the dust. A phone in the 1880s was a clunky wooden box attached to a wall, it certainly wasn't mobile. Now almost everyone has a multifunctional computer in their pockets with communication as only one of many features that is crammed into the miniature shell. Yet our schools remain almost completely untouched. In 1880 people were racing to cobble together a car, but they were clunky and slow, your best bet was probably horse and carriage. Now we have innovative cars for all walks of life – big cars, small cars, fast cars, pink cars, orange cars. They have become not just a mode of transport but a way to express yourself. Yet our schools bleach our children of any self expression with dull uniforms and suppressive rules for the sake of having rules. When this law was first introduced the first paper clip hadn’t even been invented. You would think that in the vast expanse of time since school was made mandatory it should have been at the forefront of innovation. After all, the minds of the future should be worth investing in.


Our current method of educating our children breeds an impersonal, stressful and unwelcoming atmosphere. Thirty students crammed into a room, expected to all learn the same way is a ridiculous proposition, but it is the reality in which we live in. Teachers drone on, cramming facts, diagrams, statistics into a lesson devoid of character, but some students are unable to listen. Not from lack of effort, or out of a hatred for the subject but from an inability to focus. Many students find it impossibly hard to sit still and concentrate for hours on end. The innate psychophysical difference between those that feel this way and those who don’t shouldn’t be instrumental in their chances in succeeding in life. Instead this should be combatted with a more relaxed classroom environment and more frequent breaks to allows students properly take in the information that they are given and have sufficient time to get fresh air through the day instead of being cooped up in classrooms for hours at a time.


Standardised testing is another grave flaw of the system that we force our children into. Hours upon hours spent cramming for what is essentially a glorified memory recall quiz is a tyrannical miscarriage of justice. How is it ethical to force this much stress onto the very people who will be dictating the worlds future? What’s more is that these tests are, to some extent, a mere expression of luck. Will the topic that you just can’t get feature? Or will you be lucky? Will everything that you have studied miraculously appear as questions that just seem to click? The questions aren’t the only source of luck though, everyone has a cocktail of personal situations that are constantly changing and often out of your own control. Had a bad week? Have personal situations got in the way of you being able to revise? Has something that is totally unavoidable and completely out of anyone's control thrown you? Well suck it up because you have a test tomorrow that you must do well in. the constant cycle of learn, test, stress, forget helps no one and only perpetuates a dread for school and learning creating a culture in which people don’t want to be educated as the strings that are attached are an unpredictable balance that can quickly spin out of control.


Its not just those who are not considered “academic” that the education system is hurting as those that are labelled as “bright” or “clever” can be just as damaged by it. From an early age certain kids are picked out as “smart”, they are taken out of normal lessons and are made to take the next step. They are isolated as the “intelligent” ones which breeds a mindset that they feel as if they have to maintain. Getting an answer wrong in class can be a close to world shattering event as they believe they must continue to fit the mould that they have been indoctrinated into. It encourages a mindset where it is wrong to ask for help with something in class as they are supposed to get it easily. The reputation that they have slowly becomes a personality trait and therefore they protect this feeling as its all they have. They have to understand it otherwise they won’t be the “smart” kid any more. This can quickly create a sense of dread around school and education as they feel as though they are drowning in the work even if they are doing just fine. What’s more, is the fact that this has been pushed on them from an early age means that they become subconsciously accustomed to doing the “best” without putting any extra work in. So when this changes, and they don’t get something first time, it creates a paradox. As doing extra work to try and understand would discredit their self perpetuated sense of self while not doing so and falling further and further behind does the same. We need to stop this mindset of not being able to be wrong by allowing kids to be pushed to the point where it is difficult for them. Not where the curriculum stops but where they need to work hard to get it right. Without this in place a subsection of every class will be able to coast for a while and be praised for doing so. Creating a negative mindset where getting everything right by coasting is the only valid way to get by.


The current education system is a jumbled mess of Victorian ideals that harms every group of people whether they are “academic” or not. It encourages one way of thinking, one way of working and little self expression. It overwhelms with pressures to do well in the arbitrary measures of a standardised tests and underwhelms with a lack of fulfilment when it feels as if you are stuck in a week long loop that goes by without your input or control. This is how we teach our kids and it needs to change.