Why is Gareth Malone’s Extraordinary School for boys ONLY?
by Alec Patton
Gareth and the boys (from the BBC website)
Gareth Malone, the UK’s only celebrity choirmaster, is taking the boys out of an Essex primary school class three days a week, during which he is free to work outside the constraints of the national curriculum (and outside the walls of the school). His goal is to raise the reading age of a majority of his students by six months. The BBC is documenting it, in a programme called Gareth Malone’s Extraordinary School for Boys.
I watched the first episode last week, and up to a point he’s doing great stuff: he focuses their work on preparing for a debate, so that the students need to collaborate on something with more at stake than just a grade. We’ve found this kind of learning to be extremely important in Learning Futures. He also takes advantage of the underutilised school grounds, taking the kids into the woods – which reminded me of the work on sustainability at Bydales school.
But this TV programme will do more harm than good to UK education, if they don’t get over the idea that this sort of learning is good for boys ONLY.
The rather odd premise of Malone’s ‘Extraordinary School for Boys’ is that disengagement from school is a problem that only afflicts men – the girls (whom we barely see) are presumed to be totally absorbed in whatever they’re being taught inside the classroom. The reason for this, we are told, is that schools are designed for the way that girls learn, but don’t take into account the way that boys learn.
After we watched the show, my partner pointed out just how silly this notion is: the UK education system came into being in order to train young people for jobs in the brand-new industrial economy.* At that time, women weren’t even allowed into most professions. School was literally ‘designed for boys’.
The basic structures of school have barely changed since then. So, when school is boring, it’s boring not because was designed ‘for girls’, but because it was designed for the nineteenth century.
*The film We are the People We’ve Been Waiting For makes this point really well (see below).
Entry filed under: Education & Children's Services.