I’ve been reading a lot of great books on education over the past few months, and one that I particularly enjoyed was Under Pressure: Rescuing Our Children from the Culture of Hyper Parenting by Carl Honore.
Throughout the book Carl speaks of many reasons parents need to put the brakes on the way our kids are currently being educated, and concentrate instead on the little things we can do to help our children succeed in life, not just on a test.
By the age of twelve, the two groups in the study were more or less on a par in math and reading, and their spelling, punctuation and grammar scores were similar too. But when it came to writing essays, the Montessori children were way ahead, their written work markedly more creative and their sentences more complex. The Montessori kids also handled social conflict better and felt more respected and supported at their school. “When you teach to the test, you end up with children who can pass tests,” says a Montessori teacher in Toronto. “When you forget the test and teach the child, you end up with a whole person.”
Two much academic measuring can also suck the joy out of learning. Scores of studies have shown that the more people are encouraged to chase results and rewards – an A+ on the report card, say – the less interest they take in the task itself. In international tests, East Asian students score near the top in math and science, yet rank near the bottom for enjoyment of those subjects. Might this explain why relatively few go into research after graduation, and why famous East Asian scientists and mathematicians are so thin on the ground? Or why a country like Japan has produced so few Nobel Prize winners in any field? Following a test heavy literacy drive, English ten year olds rose to third in international reading scores but were near the bottom for enjoyment of reading outside school. We seem to have forgotten the lesson of Plato: the key to education is “to get children to want to know what they have to know.” page 121