SECONDARY EDUCATION IN THE UK
-- Schools make ladies and gentlemen --
Someone ordered me to explain what the globalization meant. One teacher asked me why did I go to the UK, not an asian country. Students were afraid of the ability of my English conversation. I was filled with anxiety when departed.
My former image about British education had been mainly that of public schools; it has a long history, devided by sex, severe disciplined etc. It was a part of British education. After I studied about British maintained schools in June 1993, I became to think that there were many characteristics I'd never known in it. I wanted to know their background. This is a brief report on the British education in Autumun 1993.
2.IMPRESSIONS AT THE SCHOOL ( CARR HILL 11-18 HIGH SCHOOL)
This school situates in Kirkham, 6 miles from Preston where is the capital town of Lancashire. It is surrounded by farms and houses. there are 7 grades, from Year 7 to 11 and 6th forms (Year 12 and 13). Students are 11-18 years old. There are about 1,000 students and 66 staffs. Each grade is devided to 7-9 groups, every group has about 20 students. Registration and P.S.E. are done in this unit.
Another subjects are tought in the classroom of each teacher. Though Japanese students are tought in their homeroom in almost subject, British students move room to room in each subject with their bags. There are 11 periods in a day. One period is 30 minutes and one lesson is usually 60 minutes. They take lunch in Period 6 or 7. Every teacher may take a lunch in P6 or 7. After all students have 10 periods a day, and 50 periods a week. I was so surprised because British teachers have about 43 classes a week. In Japan high school teachers have usually 15-18 periods a week (1 period is 50 minutes). But Japanese teachers have so much jobs besides their subjects and go to school about 220 days in a year! Many British teachers said that the less lessons the better but it was more important that the number of students in a group.
Each teacher arranges their classroom; sometimes desks are opposite to the blackboard like Japanese classroom, make several blocks in another. It is different from Japan that there is no steps in front of the blackboard and teachers sometimes talk to the students sitting on the desk.
This school has 15 years experience about Information Technology. There are 110 personal computers and more. The most popular software is the integlated software of word-prosessor, spread-sheet and graphics. In the Geography class I could see many unique methods that were rare in Japan such as debating or fieldwork. Drama, also never seen in Japan, seems to be a training to speech, changing expressions and role playing.
One teacher told me the reason why there was this subject in British schools; influence of Shakespere. I felt I could understand the reason why British people could control their emotions better than Japanese.
Each grade has Assembly every day in the hall. Though students sit down next to their friends, they become silent spontaneously as soon as a teacher stand in front of the stage. This is amazing indeed. students in Japan last to chat and teachers would have to shout "Be quiet!"
The themes of speech were various; racial discrimination, Northern Ireland problem, UN week and so on. There are always prayers to God at the end. I admired them and talked to the elder teacher "British ladies and gentlemen are made in schools!". So he smiled and said "It was better in my schooldays."
3.TEACHING AND EVALUATION FOR EACH STUDENT
Teachers organize several groups of students according their ability.
Generally speaking there are 2 groups for top, 5 for middle and 2 for bottom. Grouping is made by results of assesments and changes each term. The beginning I called the top group superior, but one teacher pointed that students of the top group were bright but not always superior to the others. In Japan when a student has high ability we usually say he or she is superior in the class or to others. It is one reason why Japanese schools have difficulties to adopt ability grouping. British teachers seems to think each student has each possibility, not the same. I feel that is why British teachers are good at finding good points of students and praising them.
But doing is always more difficult than saying. I told a Math teacher "I think the bright students might study willingly. How do you motivate the students of the bottom group? " He said he used practical materials connected with future jobs. And teachers in this school often set the students reporting in the class. One student was so bright and had almost completed his report but the other enthusiastic for colouring the cover. They don't make much of competition to the others. This is a great difference between Japan and the UK.
When I showed the entrance examination of Hiroshima prefectual senior high school in 1993, a Math teacher said "the level of this exam may be A or B in GCSE and few students can solve a proof of figure especially." But in the 6th form, for A-level test, 5 or 10 students surround a teacher because they study only 3-4 subject. It was similar to a seminar in an university in Japan.
In all aspects of school there are considerations for students who have special need. Special means usually mental, physical, emotional handicaps in Japan. But in the UK it has more and more wider meaning; intellecutual, physical, sensory, social, emotional, behavioural and lingual.
They plan a grouping, employ special staffs, cooperate closely with another schools and institutions so that all students can be given well-balanced education.
This policy is shown also in textbooks and subjects. British textbooks are more colourful than Japanese and full of illustrations. When people are drawn there are always plural sexes or races. I think it is a reflection of the fact that various people exist in the UK. In Religious education they teach Judaism and Hinduism because there are many believer of them. Many people continue to try to coexist with others utilizing individual characters.
An achievement is evaluated synthetically by assesments, homeworks, reports and eagerness in the class. All students have notebooks recording the contents of homeworks. Parents may know contents of the lessons by them and tutors check in P.S.E. Teachers give COMMENDED stickers when well done.
A brief report, like Japanese school, is made at the first term and full report will be made later. Academic records are shown by tick and a personal effort is indicated in figure. Though in Japan we always evaluate synthetically in figure(1-10;10 is top and 1 is bottom), I think we should pay attention to this evaluation because some students are excellent in eagerness but not excellent in result. They attach much importance to not only results but attendance, uniform, homeworks. Carr Hill is proud of low rate of absence; approximately less than 1 %.
Though there is no graduation ceremony like Japan, there is the Presentation evening in November. The school invite graduates, their parents and the members of the Board to hand over the certificates of GCSE. It is written in the program that how many subjects does each graduate pass and more than "C". Excellent students in scholarship are introduced in a paper as well as activities in sports and arts.
Some Japanese people insist that a difference of scholarship should not exist. But I feel that the insistence itself emphasize the value of high scholarship.
4.ORGANIZATION OF BRITISH SCHOOL
A Local Education Authority in Japan engages and shifts teachers. But in the UK a Board of each school may do. A Board interviews applicants who read an advertisement in an educational newspaper. Few teacher stays at the same school over 10 years. In advertisements they specify what kind of teachers they want; headmaster, deputy head, teacher, head etc. So it is not rare that the youngest teacher is a head of the subject or headmaster is younger than deputy head. In the UK I met several headmasters, they were approximately middle 40's and very energetic. Though a Japanese headmaster seems to be a branch manager of a major company, a British headmaster seems to be a president of a medium-sized company; which headmaster has bigger authority?
There are major 3 unions of teachers and another union of headmasters. It is a characteristic in the UK and quite different from Japan.
I asked several teachers "Don't you hesitate to work under young boss?" They answered "Age is not so important. Many teachers want to work under an able boss." One has willingness to become head and get respect, another says he would be teacher rather than headmaster because he may have more opportunities to come in touch with students. Anyway teachers seem to respect a headmaster not only because he's a senior in educationbut an able manager.
Mr.Mcdougall, one of my hostfamilies, said that his position was interesting; working under the headmaster but engaging him because he was a member of the Board. It was just after we had watched the movie "Rising sun" expressing the Japanese society makes a point of relationship between senior and junior. So he began to say he couldn't understand the reason why Japanese companies could succeed though they make a point of not personal ability but order of age. I pointed out that it was sure that Japanese companies make a point of order of age than European companies but elder workers having less ability couldn't get high position or salaly. After we discussed about 1 hour he said "I understood. Japanese people make a point of teamwork than personal achievement. In British companies if a worker is in lower position he get less money and he never work than his salaly. I think the Japanese system is better." But I thought another thing; In a school British students never be impolite to call their teachers without "Mr" or "Miss". Japanese students sometimes do so as if they had guns to lose freedom. ( In Japanese gun is ju and freedom is jiyu. funny, isn't it?)
In Carr Hill there are many external staffs other than teachers e.g. helpers in Art or Home economics, engineers retired from the British Aerospace, social workers, canteen staffs. Each external staff comes to school in required times; helping to cut timber in Technology, ranging lower student or setting to take a coat off in the canteen. Many people concern with a school and it never conflict with the fact that teachers are professionals in education. I think it magnificent.
I would never compare simply educational systems in Japan and the UK because each system has a background and history. But I can recognize what the Japanese education should improve examining the British education.
Japanese people have usually confirmed where they were by the positionf them in a group. So sometimes they were content that they were medium, not bottom in a group. Sometimes they thought it all whether they passed an entrance examination or not. Sometimes they confused means and aims. I think we should change our mind; growing today's themselves than yesterday's.
In order to we realize it we should multiply the standards of worth in the Japanese society. It laps over widely what is called globalization.
I willl tell my students "Smile forgeign people please, and say "Hello" in their language." Someone will think to do so accepting also other sences of worth, another not so insisting that of themselves; it should be first but great turning-point.
I close my report thanking indeed for all the people enabled this visit, 19 colleages in our group and friends in the UK.
Ichiban (Author's webpage on the railway, British railways included)
Kaita Senior High School (The author teaches here at present)