Friday, 13 January 2017

Places where they do it better

Today it has snowed.

Snow outside my study window


Now, living in the UK that shouldn't be news, snow is part of our regular weather pattern but it seems to excite us and whips up the media into some sort of frenzy about cold and the destruction of life as we know it. I switched on the television news to see a reporter on the streets of Canterbury.The reporter was pointing out the small scattering of snow that had settled on a grassy verge, you could tell it was grassy because you could see the grass. Then the camera turned to show the road which had many tyre marks in freezing slush. Traffic was flowing normally and safely, people were walking around as normal. The reporter was explaining that this was snow and when it froze it became icy and slippery, which was dangerous.

Dangerous snow in Canterbury
I thought to myself "but what has happened to education and experience these days? Do people not know about snow and ice? What are they teaching then in school these days?" Now, the reporter could have been sent out to get reports of blizzards and traffic congestion and a scattered patch of snow and slush was all he could get, so he was making the best of it. Undoubtedly frozen slush is a hazard to cars and pedestrians. I simply felt that the normality of the situation did not merit the sensationalism that it was being given.

This is a long lead up to what I was really going to say and perhaps the link is tenuous but my despairing thought about children's education is nothing to do with the quality of teachers, I have been one. It is more about the way that education systems have been played around with by Political Parties whose goal does not appear to be helping any one individual to blossom into a person who loves learning and discovery. Governmental leadership are more concerned with statistics and budgetary cuts. Education is not simply about sending children to school, it is something that children do, they learn because they are children and what they learn is dependent on the experiences around them. Children learn to read when there are books around them.

Now, here is the bit about other countries doing this well, better than the UK. In a city in the Philippines, Baguio City Library has developed an outreach programme with local elementary schools and day centres which lends books to children for up to three days in order to develop "the love of reading for lifelong learning". The city Mayor is supporting this project: the Baguio City Library Mobile Book Service because he is "a firm believer and promoter of the power of reading and education" to improve ones station in life.

Getting children involved and giving them the opportunity to have a say in running a bookshop is another way to stimulate their reading. In Michigan, USA, Warren Public Library has a strong supporters group, the Friends of Warren Public Library which runs a bookshop to raise funds for the library. They allow children to be full members of the group. For $1 a year the child receives  12 free books from the bookshop, 10% discount from books purchased and the right to attend the regular friends meetings and have a voice in the running of the bookshop. It is hoped that the children will remain as members, possibly running the bookshop in the future.

Finally, the City of Jember in East Java has problems with literacy. Indonesia is said to have low "Literate behaviour characteristics" according to the United Nations Development Program. This prompted the government to start Indonesia’s Reading Movement in 2015. The government was not alone in trying to inspire literacy and reading because a retired teacher, Imran Suligi, has  already set up a foundation called Indonesia Membaca in order to combat illiteracy. Imran set up a library, developed into a "Reading Park" which has been recognised officially by the Indonesian government. There he provides physical activities for children, followed by reading sessions. In the past he distributed books by motorbike. Imran's latest enterprise is to lend out Reading Corner packages; books, a bookshelf and a carpet, all free of charge.

I just wish that the UK government and all local authorities had the same desire to create the environment where children could learn freely. Investment and development at the beginning of a long life would prevent the need for expensive education programmes and suddenly statistics would show that the UK is a nation of readers. And everyone would know about snow and the slipperiness of ice.

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