5          Two kinds of Education Philosophy

Besides the physical resources of teachers and schools, teaching philosophy is an input to our system.  The system itself with its provision for grant-maintained[8], comprehensive, and grammar schools, some City Technology colleges and a nation-wide network of Further Education colleges, is now potentially very flexible.  Further changes to the system will simply represent a time-wasting and costly alibi for the needed change in teaching philosophy.

Permissive Exacting
1  Pupil-centred Subject-centred
2  Discursive Apposite
3  Perambulatory Focussed
4  Discovery-centred Authoritative
5  Tolerant of mistakes Emphasis on getting things right
6  Emphasis on vague “problem-solving” skills Emphasis on established facts and methods
7  Multiculturally obsessed British centred
8  Egalitarian emphasis on mixed-ability teaching “Setting” or “selection” suited to abilities of pupils

Table 4: Attributes of Rival School-teaching Philosophies

Table 4 defines two distinct philosophies by their characteristics.  Of course no particular school or teacher will conform entirely to one or the other.  Nonetheless the Permissive philosophy is broadly what the SEE adheres to, and is prominent in the National Curriculum and the latest SEAC proposals.  GCSE particularly exemplifies attributes 1 and 5-8 of the Permissive philosophy, while both effective teacher training courses and traditional A-levels will exemplify attributes 1-8 of the Exacting philosophy.

The outputs from the inputs of the two philosophies broadly tend to the two sets of characteristics listed in Table 5.  However the home circumstances of many pupils and the remains of an objective public examination system continue to partially offset the effects of the Permissive philosophy.  In general though, the poorer a pupil’s home background, the greater will be the tendency to the Permissive outcomes in Table 5.

Permissive Exacting
1  Uncertain about what they can actually usefully do Confident they can do some things well
2  Give up easily Determined learners
3  Self-satisfied Self-critical
4  Clamorous Self-disciplined
5  Sloppy Conscientious
6  Vague, but opinionated Knowledgeable about the basics of a subject
7  Ignorant of Britain’s history and geography (this is by design) Know the great landmarks and achievements of our national story and language
8  Poorly qualified, rootless individuals, easy prey to passing fashions and obsessions Readily employable citizens, knowledgeable and respectful of our country’s history and achievements

Table 5: Outcomes of Permissive and Exacting Philosophies

The outputs of the Permissive philosophy are graphically observable for instance in Colleges of Further Education which take 16+ students from roughly the middle 50% of the ability range on to B.Tec First Diplomas (full-time) and Certificates (1 day per week).  Contact with the real world of work, which begins to undo the effects of the Permissive philosophy (particularly in respect of attributes 1, 2, 4 and 5), means that Work Experience is a very valuable component of the part-time courses.  The Council for National Academic Awards, CNAA, has observed that a higher proportion of part-time (i.e. certificate) students make a successful transition to degree courses than do full-time (i.e. diploma) students.  It is highly significant that the bulk of the equivalent two years post-compulsory education in Germany (Table 3) is accumulated as part-time education in their equivalent of Further Education colleges (Fachschulen).

The fact should be squarely faced that beyond about 15 or 16 a large proportion of young people just do not like school.  They wish to join the grown-up world and no good will come from denying them that wish.  At 16 the schools have had children for 11 years: it is gross inefficiency, born of the Permissive philosophy, which delivers most of them to the outside world with an inadequate command of the spoken and written English language, of basic arithmetic and simple geometry, and of a knowledge of the salient facts of their country’s history and geography. Until this deficiency is repaired, it is folly to pass increasing numbers into the Sixth Form and thence to universities.

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