Why we still need schools

With schools across the world getting their heads around home learning (with varying levels of technology and success), I don’t think anyone is seriously suggesting that we get rid of schools in the long term. But the fact that they are, for the most part, physically closed at the moment does help bring into focus some of the reasons why they exist in the first place.

  • Children need the important socialisation process of mixing their peers. Parents are vital for those first few years, but after that children learn how to relate properly with the rest of the world by learning how to get along with other children their age.
  • School provides an external institutional structure for kids, bringing an order to children’s lives. As children learn how to play by the rules of school, they then can become responsible adult citizens who know how to play and keep on playing the game that is civilised society (see Piaget).
  • Teachers provide the external motivational impetus to direct learning. Of course we want learning to be intrinsically motivating and engaging, but the reality is that reading, writing and maths is hard! Training your hand to write, your eyes to read and your brain to think might not be fun at the time but it pays off over a lifetime, and often requires an adult to direct a child to learn it.
  • It takes a village to raise a child. Schools provide much of that ‘village’ experience in our modern crowded and urban life. Kids get a range of input from a variety of people, both academically but also pastorally. This can be done remotely, to a degree, but is so much easier if everyone is the same room or building!
  • People who become teachers are generally the sort of people who are good at teaching (one hopes)! Not everyone has those skills or aptitude, nor indeed the depth or breadth of subject and pedagogical knowledge to introduce learners to a domain of knowledge. You generally need a piano teacher for a child to learn pianoforte…
  • Parents have to go to work. In Days of Yore, children were very useful to help their parents with agricultural jobs, such as bringing in the harvest (which is partly why we ended up with a 6 week summer holiday in the UK). It certainly is a challenge for parents to carry on doing remote working from home whilst juggling children and their learning as well.

It looks like schools in Demark are reopening, and I look forward to this happening in the UK too (at the appropriate time!).

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