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Lesson 19

                                      Why Go to School?

                                            Text A
MATTHEW:   Lesley, you're a teacher. How does the English school system work?
LESLEY:   Um, well, first of all most children start school at the age of five and they  
  can't leave school until the age of sixteen , which is just , you know , the age
  the age of five until eleven. . . um, and previously they used to take an e~even
  plus examination which would then determine whether they would go to a grammar
  school or alternatively a secondary modern school. But now we have a... a new
  systen where children aren't divided off at the age of eleven and will go into a
  comprehensive system ofschooling, and. . . will do the things that they're best 
  able to do at certain ages and if they want to take the exams they are able to
  at. . . at the age of sixteen.
MATTHEW:   Do you think that's a . . . an improvement to th system?
LESLEY:   Well,... mm, theoretically... it's supposed t be much better because it gives. . .
  it stops separating children off at the age of eleven and gives them a
  better chance, and in fact what usually happens is that those children who
  wouldn't. . . er who would have gone to a grammar school tend to be at the
  top end of the comprehensive system, and those that would have gone to
  secondarymodern school find themselves at the lower levels of the school.
MAT'THEW:   Do you think that the present school system is an efficient way of
  educating children?
LESLEY   Mm. . . well if you , if you accept that , you know , there have to be schools,  
  it seems to work fairly efficiently. Of course one of our great problems in
  England is that we have very large cl'asses and. . . um, it would be very nice
  in a class, there are only twenty. . . mm and so that each child gets more
  individual attention so that their own particular needs just aren't passed over.
MATTHEW   Do you think the. . . the subjects that er. . . children study today are
  adapted to present-day society?
LESLEY   It would be very good if... er, more children at school had the opportunity of
  learning about the society they live in... in economic terms and in social
  terms , so that they are much more aware of the problems that we face today.
  But I also think that education isn't only something that has to be. . . has
  to be relevant. . . um, I think education can be just a. .. a gradual  
  extension of one self , and I don't think it's um. . . importarit for
  subjects to be seen only in terms of how useful they are when you leave
  school. . . but how much you enjoy them and how much they mean to you.
MATTHEW   David, what would you do in an average day at school?
DAVID   Um... it mainly consists of English and Maths, which takes up a lot of the
  lesson time and then. . . um. . . like on Mondays , for example. . .er,
  we would do ...er, I don't know, Maths, English, Art, History and then
  Tuesdays would be some more English, probably ... um, His tory , Reiigious  
  studies , Physics , whatever taking now which is `O' level , which is... is
  nine subjects in all.
MATTHEW   I see, so you can choose. . . the subject you want to take for 'O' level...
  You don't have to take. . . every subject in the schdol?
DAVID   No,.... no, no.
MATTHEW   What about games. . . er and drama and things like that?
DAVID   We have about an hour and a half of games a week, and for about an hour a week 
  we. . . do a. . . a thing known as er. . . social studies, which is
  um... it's a kind of a cross-section of... er what life wili be after we
  we leave school. . . Um. . . where we do drama. .. a . . . we study
  ecology,sociology et cetera... Um, it's not 'O' level, we don't take an 'O'
  level in it, it's just for er... expersence.
MATTHEW   janet, do you... think that your daughters gain a tremendous amount from
  their education?
JANET   I think they. . . they gain a certain amount of um... necessary knowledge,
  yes,but I wish it was broader. I wish that instead of being driven    
  towards passing exams that they had, certainly at this stage of adolescence' ,
  the chance to really broaden their outlook' completely and not feel this
  necessity to read towards passing an exam , to collecting a piece
  of paper at the end of it.
MATTHEW   Er. . . do you have any specific ways in which you think. . . time at
  school could be improved?
JANET   Yes , I think there could be a. . . a lot more encouragement in doing
  things for their own sake, for getting the satisfaction out of   them... um,
  rather than this 'rat race' that everybody's forced into. . . um... for what
  is achieved at the end. I think . . . a lot more should be done to encourage
  people to get the value out of it themselves.
MATTHEW   Do you think that er. . . education is just something that takes place  
  inside a school building , or is . it a. . . an activity which takes
  place not only outside but right the way through your life?
JANET   I think it starts the moment you're born, and . . . er... that it's going on 
  all around you. It's notjust taking place in a school building. . .
  um it should be. . . part of your whole life.

                                            Text B

   In 1967, The Observer, one of Britain's leading Sunday newspapers papers , organized a competition for secondary school-children ; they had to write about "The School that I'd Like". This meant , of course , that they also had to say what was wrong with the schools they had.

David , 15
But what is the main purpose of schools to educate young people so that when they go out into thewvorld they will be prepared for ~t? But are they? We learn our Mathematics, English, Physics, etc. , but what do you learn about sex, marriage and things like this? These are just as important but we don't learn very much about them.

Carol , 17
Give us more variety! Give us the chance to visit factories more frequently , to talk with miners , dustmen , doctors , lawyers , jail-birds and drug addicts, too. Give us the chance to visit remand mand homes and prisons. We want to know more about life and less about books.

Robin, 16
What a bore school is nowadays, the same as it has been for hunireds of years. What we get is the same old thing: teacher, outdated
textbooks , and a class fed up to the teeth with the teacher and the school. What we need is one great change in the educational system of the country. Children do not want to be taught at, but want to find things for themselves. If a child is interested in the way a rabbit's heart works, let him go and find out, by cutting one up.

Irena , 15
Homework should not be given. Many of us would rather spend another hour at school than two hours at home doing an hour's homework, where we are constantly being distracted by television
and such things.

Sidney, 15
The first step must surely be to raise teachers'salaries by at least fifty per cent so as to attract first-class people to the profession. And the only means of doing this is by offering salaries equal to their responsibility in shaping the hopes of tomorrow and competitive with those offered by industry.

Christopher, 16
The discipline and life of the school would be based on freedom for the pupil. So freedom and a minimum of control would be important and the pupils, male and female, would be treated as adults and allowed to see if they can live together in a community like intelligent people. Given this responsibility and freedom, the pupils obviously would not always be well-behaved and sensible, but they would, I believe, grow up to be mature and intelligent adults who are socially and in all other ways, useful to the community.

Margaret , 14
. . . all this (i. e. freedom in schools) suggests that the school would always be chaotic, which would give all the. pupils an insihgt into what life, after school, is like: chaos.

                                Additional Information

    I am beginning ro feel the pressure of work. None of the courses are as simple as they appear to be. There are a lot of reference books to consult and you can consider yourself lucky if you manage to get half of them from the Iibrary. Most copies seem to be permanently lent out. The reading rooms are always crowded and you have to get there early in order to find a place.

    The biggest headache is our dormitory. Though there are desks for us to work at, nobody ever works there. For one thing, the room is so crowded that there is little elbow room, and it is so dark that we need the electric light even in day time. The worst is the human element - there are always those who don't want to work and won't let others work either. They either chat, sing, play the guitar or listen to tapes. How I miss my little cubicle of a room at home!

    Perhaps it's only a reaction against my early excitement, but anyway I am often overcome by low spirits. Sometimes I even think I am wasting my time here and wish I had not come here at all. But of course I know they are only passing moods caused by my disillusionment. I find some of the teachers just hopeless and totally irresponsible. All they are interested in is to earn some extra money by moonlighting. In one way. they are to be sympathized with because they do need the extra money what .with their low salaries and the rising prices. But surely they shouldn't let us suffer as a result.

    My biggest disappointment is in my fellow students. Of course I am ceferring only to some, and perhaps they are only a minority. They are a far cry from my old image of college students. They dress and behave no better than the hooligans we often see in the streets. I really don't know how they managed to get into the university, for they don't seem to be interested in their studies at all.

 All they care for is to have a good time , as though to enter university is an end in itself. They hold dances every Saturday evening or play cards in the dormitories deep into the night , drinking and smoking heavily. What's more they always jump the queue in the dining halls and quarrel with anyone who tries to stop them. Once they even came to blows. What a disgrace!

    But despite all this, college life is opening up for me a new vista that brings as much excitement as enlightenment. Here we can talk about anything under the sun. I had always thought myself well-read and my classmates at school had looked up to me for my wide "general knowledge". But now I've come to realize how ignorant I really am. 

Just from casual conversaation and informal discussions , I've learnt more about the wvorld and society in the past two months than what I learned from all the fo.rmal classes at school. Also I found many extra-curricula lectures by guest speakers most stimulating. One in particular inspired me very much, a lecture on symphonic music by a young conductor from the Central Conservatory. Before, music used to be merely a collection of beautiful sounds to me. But now I am constantly discovering new and hidden meaning behind all these sounds.
    One thing I am sure; college life is and will be a most colourful and fruitful period in my whole life.