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Friday, 12 January, 2001, 16:44 GMT
English 'lack respect for school'
students leaving school
English pupils 'more likely to want to leave early'
Schoolchildren in England are less likely to value learning than their counterparts in Denmark and France, research suggests.

English pupils are more preoccupied with their social identities than academic achievement and feel school gets in the way of their lives, researchers at the Bristol University say.

We need to value learning more as a society

Dr Marilyn Osborn
In contrast, Danish children are more positive about learning and teachers, seeing school as a means to help them work with others and fit into adult life.

The research - funded by the Economic and Social Research Council - compared the attitudes towards schooling and learning of 13- to 15-year-old pupils in England, France and Denmark.

Danish schools were found to focus on the development of the "whole child", with pastoral care a key part of the teacher's role.


There was also evidence of a strong emphasis on participatory democracy and lessons in citizenship.

English pupils are said to be more image-conscious
"As a result, Danish pupils like their teachers, are interested in building friendly relationships and they feel they can be successful," said Dr Marilyn Osborn, who directed the research.

In France, the researchers noted a much stronger emphasis on academic objectives than on pastoral ones.

Teachers were found to maintain a professional distance from parents and concentrated largely on getting as many pupils as possible to the required standard for the following year.

Testing pressures

The researchers found that in England, where teachers have traditionally had pastoral as well as teaching responsibilities, the drive to raise standards was putting more emphasis on a learning support role.

"There is now relatively little time to explore pupils' personal concerns or to build up relationships," the researchers claim.

English pupils were found to fall into three main groups: those that work hard - known as "boffins", "swots" or "keeners" - those that mess around in class and those that do both.

"These social groupings tend to dominate children's experience at school and a lot of pupils' energy goes into balancing achievement against getting on with their peers," Dr Osborn said.

In contrast, the French and Danish approaches lead children to feel that they share a sense of commonality with other pupils regardless of their social background or attainment level, the study suggests.

Worrying results

"It is a worrying trend for us that secondary school pupils are less positive towards school and that it's not 'cool' to like learning," Dr Osborn said.

"It's a worrying situation for the future, as we would like to produce people who want to go on learning for life."

English schools had much to learn from Denmark, she said, where there was a much more laid-back approach to schooling.

"There is so much pressure now on teachers and pupils and with all the testing, we're actually getting away from learning," Dr Osborn said.

Society as a whole needed to value learning more and schools should not lose sight of the personal and social side to education, she concluded.

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29 Sep 00 | Education
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