OPINION 12 things children should be taught at school rather than Latin
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Introducing Latin into state schools when the education system has never felt so irrelevant or detached from the challenges of real-life sounds like a bad joke.
When Britain’s economic landscape is creaking under the ever-widening skills gaps vital to drive the economy, how’s best to prepare British young people to become economically viable capable independent citizens?
Spend £4 million adding an ancient dead language to the curriculum, what else?
It’s Gavin ‘Frank Spencer’ Williamson’s answer to making languages less elitist.
The irony that a language demanding logical thought in a Latin Excellence Programme will instantly create elitism is clearly lost on the secretary of state for education.
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It might be based on the Mandarin Excellence Programme, but Mandarin is a highly sought-after relevant language for today’s business world that makes its scholars instantly employable. When was the last time a job spec demanded for Latin?
However, I do like Williamson’s statement: “There should be no difference in what pupils learn at state schools and independent schools.”
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We know that time on the sports field for our sedentary young people will be the timetable space sacrificed for Latin conjugation shoehorned into an already over-crowded curriculum, contributing to our schools’ increasingly rarefied irrelevance to the world happening outside their gates
Rather than visiting Roman heritage sites, our young people would benefit far more from lessons on how to change a plug and calculate interest payments than a deeper understanding of classics and life in the ancient world, as fascinating as it is.
I’m a big advocate of education for education’s sake but worry about the direction our education system is heading where relevance to real life with useful skills sinking further and further down the agenda.
Academia will never be for everyone. Rather than embracing the skills that keep our country running, and appreciating the technical, scientific and engineering on which our economy is based, there’s even more sniffiness about ‘trades’ and practical.
While other countries value technical education on a par with academic, and we’re crying out for IT specialists, engineers, scientists, project managers…the list goes on, we’re insistent on reviving an ancient obsolete language, however mind-expanding and fun Cambridge historical Mary Beard says it is.
Then offer it as an extra-currricula activity.
There are 100 more useful subjects that should be above this priority for our young people, Mr Williamson.
I've yet to meet a school leaver who wouldn’t benefit from any of the below.
Journey planning: Reading bus and train timetables and planning a trip using public transport and buying the right tickets is a basic yet necessary skill that still manages to flummox some adults.
Personal finance: Teaching teenagers to navigate the minefield of money, understand terms used in finance and banking and how to pay bills, work out interest payments, what having a pension means, how to buy a house, what insurance is all about and what you need it for would address so many issues that trip people up later in life.
Basic knowledge about taxes, mortgages, debt, comparison site and payday loans are essential education for life, but end up being picked up along the way, because who listens to parents at 16?
Entrepreneurship: Learning the basics of business and how that world works would make it easier to assess if people have the nous and drive to go it alone or prefer to work for someone else.
Nutrition, diet and exercise: The basics of a healthy life and how what you eat and how much you move affects your physical and mental health.
PE lessons should be less about competition and excellence and more about lifelong health and fitness. Not everyone is going to make the team, but everyone has some control over their health and well being. It could reverse a nation of back problems.
Simple DIY and home maintenance: Knowledge of how to change a plug, unblock a sink, use a drill and basic painting and decorating could change lives.
Book a doctor appointment – and when not to go to A&E: A crash course about how the health service works, what to use for what and when would save a lot of timewasters in A&E departments.
Cooking: Learning to cook and how to plan menus and food shops rather than the rock cakes and scotch eggs in home economics of our generation. It would tackle food waste as well as family health and budgeting.
First aid: An obvious improvement to any school curriculum and a lifelong skill that could save lives.
Touch typing: Everyone needs it n who works with keyboards. Hunching over a desk punching with two fingers is good for no one.
Digital etiquette: Learning how to behave online is an obvious necessary life skill today.
Voting, government and local government: Who does what in which council, what council tax is all about and why everyone should vote.
Driving (practical and theory): Young people must stay in education or training until 18, so they should learn how to drive, something employers do demand often (unlike Latin) and is a lifelong basic skill.