Educationalist and former Headteacher, Keith Davidson, shares how Christian parents can respond to forthcoming changes in the education system, and help their children achieve
For the Christian, an excellent education should be fully blended with spiritual insights, since believers are called into this world to glorify God, the Creator, and to serve others.
Faith provides the basis of the value system of the Christian, and builds the moral compass that guides our actions. But, whereas faith determines the ethical foundation in our lives, it is education that powers our actions with the skills, information and the knowledge we need for our existence today. Thus, fundamentally, education allows us to demonstrate our love for God, and to offer selfless service to our neighbours.
“Whereas faith determines the ethical foundation in our lives, it is education that powers our actions with the skills, information and the knowledge we need for our existence.”
On the basis of this wider understanding of the purpose of education we, therefore, have a useful tool for evaluating the effectiveness of the present education system that is serving our children today. Sadly, the picture is not a rosy one. Why is this so? The reason is that, for over two centuries, the English education system has been operating on the basis that only a minority of children (children from the ruling class) are intellectually capable of academic work at school.
Thus, from the 1950s to the 1980s, the prima donna of the national qualification system – that is, the old GCE examination system – was only offered to 20% of children. And, despite the introduction of the present GCSE examination system in the 1980s, with the intention that more children would have the opportunity to achieve this important qualification, many children are still failing in the education system. In 2011, over 40% of children left school without the recognised 5 A*- C GCSE qualifications, including English and Mathematics. But more tellingly, the figure for African Caribbean children was over 50% failing.
For decades, the African Caribbean community has been shouting loudly about how the education system is failing its children. However, as an educational practitioner/leader in the community for over thirty years, involving serving as a headteacher, education director and an Ofsted Inspector of schools, I believe that the time has come for the African Caribbean community to move beyond complaining about the failure of the system.
We can create a genuine pathway to success for Black children who, for many years, have been plagued with the experience of schools having poor expectations about our children’s academic ability. However, the recent announcement by the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, of plans to replace the current GCSE examination system with a new English Baccalaureate (EBacc) from 2017, must be carefully examined by the community for its likely impact on our children’s educational future.
Behind the Education Secretary’s proposal is the belief that too many children are passing the GCSE examinations, and this is because they (the examinations) are being made easier. Hence, the expectation is that, with the proposed new EBacc examination, more children will leave school in the future without a secondary school qualification. And the danger is that Black children will again be over-represented amongst those likely to fail under the new system.
Thus, the challenge is how can the Black community be proactive in combatting this danger? The way forward requires a paradigm shift in the way we approach the education of our children.
Firstly, parents need to re-position themselves onto the frontline of the education process. Parents must give leadership in the important matter of the education of their children by recognising that they are their children’s first teachers. Parents can build children’s confidence and self-esteem; lead children in the discovery of their unique self and giftedness; teach children values, and support their character development.
Secondly, parents and the Black community must accept the reality that children who are successful at school today have access to greater social capital to support their learning within the education system. This means that parents will need to prioritise and invest more wisely and long term, by providing children with more learning materials at home and, in addition, employ private tutors to support their children in the areas of English, Mathematics and Science.
Thirdly, parents and community institutions, such as the Church, should help children to develop the emotional and spiritual strengths to resist the dangers of confrontation with teachers and school authorities. This conflict at school leads to the slippery road of school exclusions, and ultimately to a life of crime and a situation where many of our young men are languishing in prisons today.
Fourthly, parents and community leaders must continue to challenge the curse of racism in education. Racism is still very evident in the English educational system, and is a barrier to achievement for Black children. We must constructively continue with the battle against racism in education, individually and collectively, by never turning a blind eye, but to be vigilant when it surfaces in schools, by calling schools to account.
Fifthly, the church community today must urgently give consideration to the need for them to raise their game in education, by establishing faith schools for the education of their children, within the ethos of a Christian faith and the community’s cultural heritages.
Finally, the community and Black educators should continue to champion and give leadership to the cause of working towards (a) eliminating the shackles of elitism afflicting the education system, and (b) building a fairer and equal education system for all children.
Keith Davidson is a former Headteacher of JohnLoughboroughSchoolin Tottenham, North London. Alongside Dr June Alexis, he has jointly written ‘Education: A pathway to success for Black children’ (£15.99). To purchase a copy, visit www.kadpublications.co.uk or phone 07859 723000.