Education

We need fewer exams and more wilderness in education by Ben Fogle

Full article here from Guardian

“Government plans to introduce national tests for seven-year-olds shows just how far our exam obsession has come. Our kids now face constant assessment as politicians attempt to measure the success of schools. Children have become tiny cogs in a box-ticking government machine. Education has lost its way.

There are a few of us whose minds turn to putty under pressure. Exams left me feeling worthless and lacking in confidence. The worse I did in each test, the more pressure I felt to deliver results that never came. When I failed half my A-levels, and was rejected by my university choices, I spiralled into a depression.

That’s why, instead of pumping time and money into exams, we should focus on wellbeing and encouraging our children to connect with the natural world. I’m not suggesting the abolition of the exam system, but we could certainly cut back to allow more time for children to explore the world around them.

And evidence shows connecting with nature really works. Free play in the outdoors is good for social and emotional development, improves self-awareness, and makes children more co-operative. A study by the American Medical Association in 2005 concluded that: “Children will be smarter, better able to get along with others, healthier and happier when they have regular opportunities for free and unstructured play in the out-of-doors.” There is also scientific evidence that the wilderness can reduce hyperactivity and has a soothing effect on children, especially those suffering from attention deficit disorder.

I want an education system that works inside out. The outdoors becomes a weekly topic – encompassing geography, environment, resourcefulness, home economics, science, and maths – undertaken outside. Classes could be in an inner-city park, scrubland or garden.”

A child plays in woods in Yorkshire.

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