Thursday, 15 January 2015

Looking to the Future

At the end of last year I wrote an article on the need for new and fresh ideas within the socialist movement and only through discussion of the main issues could this be achieved.

In the previous piece I discussed working life. I am delighted to be a member of a party who supports a £10 an hour minimum wage and an end to zero hour contracts. Not only that but the SSP will openly campaign for this to happen rather than merely pay lip service to it. I am looking forward to campaigning with many comrades in Dundee and throughout Scotland to get our message out to the people of Scotland.

I hope that in future discussions we will consider the option of making Sundays a day of rest for non essential services and look forward to that debate.

Today I would like to discuss education, I have taken this from the position of Scotland being an independent country, however being a devolved institution there are many of these policies which could be introduced. Again I hope this may lead to further debate and alternatives to what I am proposing.

Education
There are five key ways in which Scotland can become a beacon for other nations . Some of these issues are already being implemented by the Curriculum for Excellence. They are:

Increase in foreign language education, using after-school period for investment in our global position

An increase in 'Scottish' education, focusing on Scottish history and literature.

Universal childcare provision not only to promote gender equality but also educational development

Universal education for all, regardless of gender, race, economic/social status or disability

Removal of 'academic stigma' of education. Increase in vocational education leading to a more diverse workforce

In an independent Scotland, one of the core tenets we will have to embrace will be our position within the global society. With the emergence of 'superpower markets' in India, China, and Brazil we need to use our positive standing within the world to develop relations with these nations and encourage higher demand for our exports. For too long we have embraced an 'English Language' only notion, while the world has evolved into a multi lingual trading community. In order for us to catch up, we must expand our children's horizons.

Britain has fallen behind the much of the world in multilingualism. The benefits of studying a second language at an early age are enormous for both the individual and the nation.

Benefits of Early Years Education for Student
- Higher test scores  
- Advanced reading skills
- Greater confidence
- Higher intelligence
- Natural sounding native accent
- Greater understanding of English
- Broader view of the world
- Fostering cultural bonds

Benefits for Scotland
- Better educated workforce
- Greater ties with emerging markets....
   French- Large parts of Africa
   Spanish- Latin America
   Mandarin- China
   Arabic- Large areas of Middle East
-  Allow Scottish business to flourish worldwide
-  Ability to build a military using our own capabilities and objectives

                                     

In Scotland's primary schools we have already seen the creation of government-funded after-school clubs. This time can be used to create an environment for learning foreign languages from the age of 7. A wide range of languages could be offered, not only traditional UK academic languages (Spanish, German, French) but development of languages vital for future economic and international security purposes. (Mandarin, Arabic etc,)

This is based on the academic culture of East Asia; in particular, Japan, China and South Korea. In South Korea students finish school then face up to 7 hours of lessons in English, Maths, Music and Sports. By having one hour per day we can begin to increase students ability to develop multi-lingual capabilities at an age where this information can be more easily retained. As this would only be one hour means parents can still promote imaginative and creative development through free play.

National Identity- Replacing the Cringe with confidence

One of the key tenets of the Curriculum for Excellence is promoting confident individuals, thereby a confident  national identity. This should not be seen as a nationalism,. Scots have a rich history of which there is much to be proud of. Not only battles and wars, but also invention, literature and exploration. Scotland should be immensely proud of its history and confident of it's place in the world. As a country we have achieved a great deal and we should be confident in how we will help shape the world, dispensing with imperial/superpower bravado.

In order to remove the 'cringe' effect , it is important that we place a high premium on Scottish history and literature in our educational system. This is already beginning to be implemented, and further development should be actively encouraged by the Scottish Parliament.

'Experience a traditionally broad Scottish curriculum that develops skills for learning, skills for life and skills for work, with a sustained focus on literacy and numeracy, encourages an active, healthy and environmentally sustainable lifestyle and builds an appreciation of Scotland and its place in the world' (Building the Curriculum 3)

                                                               


Further study of 'Scots' languages in the core curriculum should also be discussed. Education can help brings about a greater pride and responsibility within a society.

While this 'Scottification' of our education is important, it should not come at the expense of learning about other cultures or other great works of literature. The realisation of how education can be used to 'learn' rather than pass exams is vital.Teachers and schools should have the freedom to emphasize teaching to learn rather than teaching to pass. An educated society fosters a confident, thriving society.

Childcare and Early Years Education.
We support a universally funded childcare system in Scotland. For many, particularly on the left, this is seen solely as an equalisation of gender in the workforce. However there is also an educational aspect. Brain patterns in children aged 2-6 are not fully developed. This is the period in which nurturing and development are crucial. Fully trained child carers provide the best avenue for such development. This is done through imaginative play, social integration with other children and early cognitive development.

In Germany, they have many kinder groups which are based outdoors in forests and farms. These initiatives allow for young children to have a greater understanding of their environment and develop a proper respect.

Germany also offers tax breaks to those families whose mothers stay at home. However, this may not be suitable to implement and indeed a step backwards in for gender equality. There should be measures put in place to help support those mothers or fathers who do want to stay at home with their children. This is the benefit of a system in which we can choose what is best for our own purposes.


Universal Education for All/ Removing 'Academic' Stigma of Education.
A nation must be committed to providing a platform for all of its citizens, the theme of no child left behind is prevalent in our educational philosophy. This must be nurtured and expanded to include all within our society, not only children but adults who have been held back for whatever reason. It is a governments duty to give each citizen the resources to make the most of their talents, regardless of age, gender, economic status, or ethnicity.

Based on the Finnish model, funding for schools should be determined by factors such as economic deprivation, class sizes, and number of second generation immigrants. Funding will become decentralised with Teachers and Principles having real input as to where the money is spent. Creation of a 'second teacher' in primary classes, working alongside learning support departments to focus on student needs for individual lessons. Collaboration between staff to use the funding and resources is necessary to maximise schools’ ability to provide educational opportunities for all.

We must also remove the stigma associated with vocational education. There needs to be a broader acceptance that University is not necessarily best for all students. A solid base of educational learning must be provided until the age of 14. At this time, there should be an expansion of 'vocational' school subjects with direct paths to work placements. If someone is passionate about engineering, they should not be held back as they are in today’s system. This will diversify our educational programs, preparing students to become a broader and more varied workforce. Education becomes more cyclical and less linear, making career changes easier and less daunting.

Above all it is a citizens right to have an education system in place for them, promoting Scotland's will to fully develop all its children. A cradle to grave fully-funded educational system deserving of the people it serves.

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