treadmillbigger5 Treadmills

Ever feel like the education system and life in general is a treadmill ?

You’re launched aged 0 and don’t stop till you drop off somewhere along the way.

We slept in this morning – half term – until 10.30 am. After 6 weeks of 6.30am starts, 6 days a week, the hours are beginning to feel like the devil’s own phone number.

Is there any point in even trying to keep up with the standards set by our South East Asian friends in Singapore, Japan as well as high-performing cities in China such as Shanghai? Hong Kong alone top the PISA ( Programme for International Student Assessment) taken by 500,000 15 yr olds in 60 countries.

In South Korea it’s normal for children to go to school from 8am – 5pm, come home to eat, go to a crammer from 6-9pm, head back home and finally hit the sack at 2am after more revision and homework. Then they get up at 6.30am and start all over again. I’ve heard of at least one family who continues this regime in the ‘holidays’.

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I know of someone who calls their child a ‘SPECIMEN’ …

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…  and another family who talks about their son as a ‘PROJECT’.  How the hell do they think their children will deal with those labels? Even if, according to the parents, they call them that in jest.

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The highest cause of death for under-40s is suicide. Surprised?

South Korea is near the top of the tables, but have the unhappiest children. 

Indonesia is almost at the bottom of the league tables and their kids say they are the happiest.

What can we learn from this?

Time was, we came home from school, did a bit of homework, then rang our dealers from the phone box on the corner and smoked grass in the local park. Or were we rubbing two boy Scouts together to make a fire?


No. It was mainly:

1. Watching Blue Peter and Dr Who

2. Collecting milk bottle tops

3. Swimming in the North Sea until our lips were blue (wet suits? Don’t make me laugh)

4. Making explosions with sulfur-scented scratch ‘n’ sniff cap rolls

5. Stockpiling copies of ‘Look and Learn‘ and doing what Big Chief I-Spy told us to.

6. Sucking as much lemon sherbert as you could through the liquorice ‘pipe’ before it gummed up

All good innocent stuff.

Nowadays the kids look like this

ghostkids3 Treadmills

I’d like to know how we got onto this fast moving conveyor belt in the first place, and who blew the starting whistle.

Was it:

  1. The pupils who say the schools are demanding higher standards
  2. The schools who say the parents are demanding higher standards
  3. The parents who say the schools are demanding higher standards
  4. The schools who say the Universities are demanding higher standards
  5. The Universities who say the job market is demanding higher standards

Unfortunately, the job market has a workforce that looks like this:

workers3 Treadmills

What’s the use of being a Big Banana if you’re celebrating your 40th here:

bigbananaflat Treadmills

Ironically, some of the highest achieving nations are now beginning to realise the need to slacken off a little from their intensive test-driven syllabus, and introduce an element of creativity into the curriculum. A generation of work-only focused children won’t beget successful families even if they live that long. They’re finally starting to emulate the Western system of education – before we locked onto League Tables big time. 

And what are WE doing? Blindly following the exam results and stepping up the pressure every year to catch up with those at the top. There’s no room for kids to grow into fun-loving, healthy grown-ups if they’re being force-fed. Everybody says, “I just want them to be happy”. Well, excuse me but what sort of tyranny is that? Here it is again but highlighted to see who’s holding the happiness wand – “I JUST WANT them to be happy”. Where’s the room in there for our children to explore? Become who they really are? Not just more successful versions of ourselves.

Here’s a list of jobs I don’t want my son to do when he’s older: bullfighter (dangerous), Roman Catholic priest (no grandchildren), racing driver (too fast), pigman (smelly), banker (loose relationship with moral compass), mobile phone salesperson (differently truthful), astronaut (too far away from his Mummy).

But, and this must be the ‘BUT’ that allows the child genuine freedom to explore their true nature – we as parents have to let go and not interfere with their dreams. So, if he or she wants to head off to Spain to swoosh a red cape in front of a snorting bull (as the English son of some London accountants I know has done), let them. Forcing or guiding them into a career they neither love or have a natural flair for is limiting their very being. Did this happen to you?

Let’s hop off the conveyor belt today and take a good look at what education really is. The Latin root of the word education is duco meaning ‘I lead, I conduct’. Surely good education is genuinely leading the child to their personal best. Not ‘THE BEST’ according to a set of criteria relating to only a minority of kids who are born academics. Hothousing very bright children is debatable at best, but doing so to those who have no natural ability in formal study but may have great talents elsewhere, is fundamentally cruel, and a waste of all the possibilities that make life richer for us all.

I’m sure that most children can probably do a great deal more than they think they can, and often do a great deal less than we would like, but wouldn’t it be an idea to slow the speedometer on the treadmill for a while?

Why don’t we all agree to calm down, and let the children play.

At least some of the time.

Cerealboxesletkidsplayfinal Treadmills

What do you think?

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