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【The Standard:Study in the UK】Teaching that's outside the box

Boarding 101


WHEN IT comes to explaining the exceptional academic achievement witnessed at independent schools over the past few decades, one might jump to the conclusion that it is a result of their freedom to select the brightest pupils.


However, such a belief discredits the teachers who work long hours and inspire pupils through imaginative, anti- syllabus teaching.


It was a drizzly, murky day out in the Norfolk Broads when the subject of history came alive for me. I had become accustomed to mildly interesting visits to stunning country houses around Norfolk and many a grand castle further afield, but this particular day gave me a thirst for a subject which I had generally been indifferent towards.


My class found itself in the woods dressed in funny clothes and handling pretend guns.


Hardly deafening noises around me from all the shells, but fascinating to imagine how a ditch could represent a trench with willing pupils peeking over into “No Man’s Land.”


Our teacher was obviously improvising, and he later struck a chord with all of us when he began to lecture to us about the significance of No Man’s Land whilst dressed in a soldier’s uniform.


This story depicts the essence of an independent school education. Teachers cannot raise pupils’ aspirations through only references to league tables and adhering to a syllabus, but rather through instilling in them an appreciation for kinaesthetic learning, team-building projects and engagement with nature.


For me, teachers are excessively underrated. It cannot be easy to work long hours, attend the many staff meetings, keep up with the rigors of bureaucracy and continue to do justice to a school’s ethos. A school can only move away from teaching to the test to a certain extent, and teachers are faced with a delicate juggling act.


Research conducted by organizations such as The Sutton Trust has shown that many independent school teachers possess a degree in the subject they are teaching. So if schools give their teachers room to breathe and autonomous powers, these inspiring educationalists should be well-placed to instil in their pupils a real love for specific subjects.


Another point is that myriad digital resources allow for more alternative teaching. Teachers have to keep up with the times and the willingness to learn is generally enhanced.


I think back to my teacher in the soldier’s uniform. No technology, no showing off and certainly no teaching to the test. Simply pure inspiration.


Samuel Chan is a director at Britannia StudyLink


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