The style of educating young children is vital to their development as whole beings. This is not just an academic exercise, although at times it might feel like that! I watch the towing of heavy bags in the morning, and feel sad when some boys tell me they have done two or more hours of Prep the previous night (as much as some seniors), and now we see them preparing relentlessly for end of year examinations as young as K1. The message of hard work and reward for effort must not change, but we must also be smarter in the understanding why we study and what outcomes we seek. I feel sure this position has widespread understanding. Supporting this fact is that education has moved on from the mere acquisition of knowledge (forever changing) and repetitious tasks, although rote learning does have its place. We should be forming an environment in which little boys value the act of thinking and exploring too (which includes fun); not just acquiring information. In the end, it is how we apply knowledge that matters. Thus, we have decided to adopt the Cambridge Primary Curriculum for English, Mathematics and Science.
Content based learning is, therefore, no longer the sole aim of top junior schools around the world. It is increasingly important to learn and experience in ways that respond to a taxonomy of thinking. In doing so, we are acknowledging that learning is more than memorization of ‘facts’, more than a plethora of worksheets and an end of year examination for boys younger than 10. It follows that we must ideally provide room for different learning styles and time for curiosity, creativity and expression -and this includes time at home to enjoy family and play as well. All these attributes enrich the development of the whole boy, as does the largely non assessable playing of games, drama and music. Junior education must ingrain the basics of literacy and numeracy at a young age, but it should also open the way to basic thinking and evaluation, then analysis. This cannot occur if we treat the youngest boys as simply smaller versions of their seniors. Junior education is a more complex and specialist task that requires regular intervention, patient explanation and a responsive curriculum. Mostly, each boy is a work in progress who cannot be ‘weighed and measured’ on any particular day and then judged.
Teachers are doing a great job in Junior School and their Headmistress is a devoted, skilled and highly competent leader. Our move to modify the curriculum has come after much discussion and is universally welcomed by staff and externally supported by best practices. As a result, Aitchison will be making the following modifications in Junior School from the next academic session 2016-17:
May I state clearly that the traditional values of Aitchison remain solidly intact and will always distinguish our school from others, as does its broad educational programme. We look forward to also establishing more parent meetings in 2016-17 and dates will be posted on our website, well ahead of time.
Warm wishes and well done to all our boys!