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Primary education is the foundation of a child's development, both academically and socially. Thus, it is really important that a child is given proper primary education, without any impediment. This essay, while explaining the different types of schools and levels of education in U.K. and showing how the primary level prepares the child for future studies, also indulges in the merits and demerits of selective education in the lives of students.
Primary education in U.K. is the first level of compulsory education for child. The children are put under the primary education at the age of five and they generally pass out of this level at the age of eleven. Primary education usually comes after the children have completed their basic academic level, i.e. the nursery level or the pre-school level. The children remain in their nursery level from two to four years of age. They spend their fourth to seventh year in pre preparatory level; and the preparatory level starts when they are seven till they reach the age of eleven or thirteen. After they have completed their primary education they enter the next level of education, i.e. the secondary education. Different schools have different jurisdictions; in some schools the shift from primary to the secondary level or high school is compulsory, while in some other schools it is a matter of choice. This shift from the primary level to the secondary or high school usually occurs at the age of eleven or twelve. However, there are some schools or educational institutions in which the transfer of students from the primary level to the final stage of education takes place at about fourteen years of age. Such schools have different middle schools which provide the final education to the children.
Primary level education is considered significant in the lives of children because it is in this level that their mentality is shaped. If they receive proper education and learn to mingle with other students they will be better able to understand the world - the difference between the good and the bad - in their adult life. Therefore the primary level has the most crucial responsibility towards the development of the children. The most important aims of primary education are imparting the basic knowledge of literacy, numeracy, history, math, geography, and some other social sciences which are important in their day to day lives. It also seeks to internalise in them the moral codes without which they cannot deal with the outside world. Thus, though primary level education seems to impart only the basic and the lower kind of knowledge, in reality it prepares the children to understand the world in a better way.
In the primary schools of U.K. the children almost always study together, irrespective of their sex. These schools are most often located near their homes so that the children do not have to travel long distances and can spend some time with their family members. Certain orientation programs are held for the parents of the primary level children to educate the parents on how to deal with their children regarding their education. The parents are encouraged strongly to lend a hand to their children, especially in their writing and reading work. The children, too, are provided with small amounts of homework so that they do not lose touch with their education.
Usually, in the primary classes the children are put under the care and guidance of a particular teacher who is basically responsible for the children's well-being and education for a particular year. Most of the time, this teacher is assisted in different ways by other teachers who are specialists in different areas, especially in physical education or music. This system of having a single teacher for a whole year makes the children capable of building a strong bond with the class, since they have to be with the same students throughout the day, and is a most prominent characteristic of primary education. For a very long time corporal punishment was a vital part of the primary education system. But this practice has recently been criticised by a number of people, and therefore, has been outlawed in most of the schools.
There are different types of schools that provide education to the children. The main categories of schools can be divided into two. They are local authority maintained schools, i.e. the State schools, which provide free education to children of five to sixteen years of age and independent schools, which may be private as well as public schools, in which the parents have to pay for their children's education. Primary education is compulsory for all children. They can attain it either through state owned free schools or by paying for their education in the private or public schools.
The schools in which the parents have to pay for the education of their children are called independent schools. Almost seven percent of the children of England (U.K.) attend such independent schools. The public and private schools come under this category of independent schools. The preparatory level, in which the children study from seven to eleven or thirteen years of age, prepares the students to admit themselves in a public school. In England, the public schools are independent secondary schools. Such public schools are not under the government, or at least not run by the government. To get into a public school the children have to sit for an entrance exam, known as Common Entrance Exam. This entrance exam is taken by the boy student at the age of thirteen and by the girl student when she is eleven year old.
Selective education is a widely talked and debated topic most countries. As the child enters his or her secondary school, he or she is provided with a wide number of abilities. In some schools the child has to learn different subjects or abilities together. Such schools are called comprehensive schools. On the other hand, in some other schools the secondary education differs with different student. Children with different abilities attend different schools. Such schools are to be found in the U.K. and are known as selective schools. The most able students in the academic field attend the grammar schools till they are eighteen years of age and after that they move on to the university level. On the contrary, the children who are considered or judged to be academically less capable are expected to attend those schools which provide them with a more technical and vocational education. Such students usually pass out of schools at the age of fifteen or sixteen. Most of these students do not even go for a higher level of education; instead, directly after their secondary education they move out in search of jobs.
Most parts of the U.K., which includes the entire region of Northern Ireland, have retained the grammar schools in spite of the popular move since the late 1960s towards the establishment of schools that provide comprehensive education. There have been massive demonstrations since 1997 against selective education by the U.K. Labour Government. In the earlier phase of their demonstration against selection in education, they created ballots in support of the abolishment of the grammar schools. After such display of resentment a shift has been made away from the “one size fits all” form of education system. Comprehensive schools were described as “bog standard” which will not touch some of the students with a “bargepole”. In spite of all this, the government still seems to be supporting the grammar schools.
Let us try to find the pros and cons of selective education, which many think is good for the future of the student and many others think that it only creates biased results. According to many studies it has been proved that students with same intellectual ability at the age of eleven have different outcomes as they reach the age of eighteen, depending on whether they studied in a selective school or in a school of mixed abilities, i.e. in a comprehensive school, and it has been found out that students who attend a selective school have a higher degree of achievement. Nevertheless, based on the above study one can also prove that the results can always be screwed. They can claim that due to the presence of such selective schools only certain competent students and some able teachers can budge on, while snatching the opportunity from the less capable students, who if had been given a chance could have done as good as the bright students. A comprehensive study system, on the other hand, ensures good and almost similar results for everyone.
The selection procedure which labels the students as capable and less capable is also not fair, if observed carefully. Such a test, which is taken by the children at the age of eleven, only tries to measure the ability of the students at their present age instead of testing their long term academic ability. The children while giving the entrance exam is influenced by a lot of factors like illness, parental pressure, quality of their primary education, family tensions, etc. Thus, this Common Entrance Exam becomes too much objective and one cannot be judged to be academically good or poor based on that.
Selective education, many argue helps the children to take up education based on his or her field of perfection. Such schools clearly demarcate and recognise the different needs of the children. Children belonging to poor families who are brighter or meritorious than children whose parents can afford to send them to independent schools can easily pursue their academic degree without any financial problem. Many others who believe that education is not a matter of privilege but a right to all argue that such a system of education is wholly elitist.
Selective education supporters claim that there are many trouble makers in a class who neither study themselves nor allow the other sincere students to concentrate in their studies. Therefore, those who want to study and have the ability to study and get good results should be allowed to do so without any disturbance and obstruction. But one can also argue against such a judgement since a child cannot be judged whether he or she is a trouble maker at the age of eleven. That student may prove to be a sincere and bright one as he or she grows up. Thus, it cannot be supposed to be justified to categorise children as notorious (or bad) or sincere when they are only eleven year olds.
From the above discussion we might come to the conclusion that though selective education or grammar schools are doing a great job in helping the students to pursue a career in which they are specialists, such schools are also doing away with students, who if had given a chance would have proved to be brighter than those labelled as bright students.
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