Last year I wrote about the wonderful informal learning my daughter experienced whilst on holiday in Cornwall over the summer. She was trying to look for crabs and met a retired local Cornish fisherman who kindly took the time to explain to her the best way to look for them and showed her how to do it. She was just 7 at the time.
This year we returned to Cornwall for our summer holidays and visited some fabulous beaches. And guess what, she remembered what the fisherman had told her last year and proceeded to hunt for crabs and fish in rock pools large and small.
She was putting her learning into practice and found loads of things from fish and prawns to sea urchins and crabs. She remembered what she had been told. She was engaged and enthusiastic. Consequently, she understands about the seaside and some of the creatures that live there. She has learnt about habitat, life cycles, the food chain and (sadly) pollution. She has picked up practical skills, followed instructions, used listening skills, interpreted information.
And yet, because this happened during a holiday, according to our government, this is not learning. And can you imagine what might have happened if this experience had been turned into a lesson in our formal education system? It would all have to be measured. Because if it isn’t measured then it can’t be proved that learning actually took place. Apparently. Learning isn’t always about facts and figures. It’s about experiences. And some of the best teachers aren’t necessarily those with the formal qualifications to teach, but those who are willing and able to share their knowledge and skills.
It makes me sad to my very core that we seem to have lost sight of this. Somehow education has become led by politicians and their need to measure everything in order to prove its success or otherwise. The needs of our children have been lost. And I worry because it seems that this message of measuring learning has been passed on to the next generation of both parents and children as well. I’m trying to ensure this isn’t the case with my own.