You never stop learning, I keep getting told.

It’s probably not far off the truth, really.  On balance, there are always new things that you can pick up even when you’ve ‘left’ education – in your professional life there are new skills to gain an understanding of, for instance.  I know several people who have finished their degrees – no sooner had the mortarboard come off had they begun looking into professional qualifications to help with career options and the like.

However, May 14th will represent a significant milestone in my life – it will represent the end of my formal education experience.  I will have enjoyed primary, junior and secondary schools, GCSEs, A Levels – not to mention a four year university degree that includes a placement abroad.  Not an unvaried education it must be said, and it has allowed me to see the good and the bad of education over the years – often from a student’s perspective but also as a teacher last year in Grenoble.

I can’t help but feel that it’s a mixed bag, but we’ll be balanced here.  With that in mind…

  1. Schools are ‘exam factories‘ that can’t seem to win – It’s painful to say this, but schools seem to be trapped.  Successive governments have raised the stakes to the degree that they can’t really concentrate on much else – schools are now graded to the point that every fine detail is out there for all to see.  Undoubtedly it’s all come at the expense of ‘real’ education, where kid’s creativity is unfortunately strangled from a very young age – sadly it doesn’t seem to recover.  I mean, how can five year olds be thrown into the system at the expense of understanding very basic social skills?  It’s a tragedy, if you ask me.
  2. Ofsted needs to change – There’s so much going on in schools and there is so much at stake from the results of elections, Ofsted really do need to  be fit for purpose.  However, inconsistent means of assessing how good schools actually are is such a massive issue that it renders the whole system in doubt.  Furthermore, without qualified inspectors, the system is even more shaky.  From my personal experience, Ofsted has bumbled and blundered as it panders to the government’s whims and hasn’t really adapted to make sure that it’s working.
  3. Speaking of which… – Yikes, the political ambitions of some have ensured that the education system is quite an unpredictable world, full of ever-changing curricula and ‘the next idea’ taking hold.  Last week the government decided to reject the idea of having an independent body that would review the curriculum every so often and could be held accountable.  Instead we’re letting the politicians take hold of the system once more.  If we’re going to have this approach, at least let’s have an actual teacher in charge of the education system – not Michael Gove followed by Nicky Morgan…
  4. Unions have alot to add, you know – Having worked with Superprof for quite some time, I’ve seen unions make various proposals and ideas – some of them more interesting and controversial than others.  Perhaps the debate that raged some time ago about teachers not wanting to work in hot conditions highlighted that it is a very unpredictable set of values that many hold.  Then again, fighting to ensure that university staff actually get a decent wage and some inspiring research into mental health issues among students and teachers… it’s really been quite an amazing sight to see the government needing to consider the needs and interests of the people.
  5. A Levels open doors, but so do other options too – I can’t quite understand why the government is having so much of a cull of various subjects that it doesn’t consider academic enough, it doesn’t really help those who really have a dream to follow and pursue.  Of course, I went through two years of A Levels and found it a curious change from being told what to think – it’s the start of a shift to ‘how to think.’
  6. University is crazy, frustrating and demanding, yet the greatest life experience you could have – Enough said.  These last four years have been such a delight, from the people I’ve met to the wild parties to the challenging learning and life lessons that have had to be learnt.  The way that university challenges students to think and truly understand what they’re trying to learn makes it such a great life experience.
    The problem is, it’s quite an elite life experience.  Fees are £9,000 a year and most loans and grants combined don’t cover all the living expenses and the support offered by universities doesn’t make up for this.  Fairer access is really needed to ensure that students get the best possible chance to succeed.
  7. A placement really does add to your CV – Erasmus was the best year I could ever have hoped for – it gave me the chance to gain some great cultural understanding, along with outstanding language skills.  Of course, that’s without even considering the work and study experience I landed in the process.  It’s a shame that we keep having this whole EU debate over and over again – isolating us from the rest of Europe would do us no favours.
  8. Really, it’s going to be weird to say goodbye to it all – True story that. 17 long years that have proven frustrating and demanding, yet something that I couldn’t change for the world.

Education has formed a massive part of my life and it feels very strange to be getting to the end of it… Of course, I’m never truly going to stop learning things, but it’ll be more informal and take the form of learning to aid my work, rather than anything else.

On top of all this, I’ve been able to bring my knowledge, understanding, and experience to TutorHub.  It’s been fantastic to share these experiences to bring more people closer to the online tutoring market.

I can only hope parents, teachers, students and politicians get along and help education move forward for the better!


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Joseph is a French and Spanish to English translator, language enthusiast, and blogger.