A dearth of inspirational management

Failings in the management department are symptomatic of a wider trend towards machine education

The results of the Student Satisfaction survey are in, and conclude — in a fantastic case of understatement — that Management is ‘needing improvement’. This will come as no suprise to the most students, with Management notorious for contact time of “two hours a week on average’. Nor to the Management students themselves who, having sat through a turgid year of lectures in which lecturer Chizekie Okike merely read from slides provided by an American firm, are painfully aware of the failings of their department. The only surprising feature of the report was the words of the Head of Undergraduate Studies Kathryn Haynes when confronted by Management students.

Remarkable as her excuse was for Okike’s lectures – that is, that “Friday afternoon is not the best time for him” – what followed was even more worrying. To hear the words, “this year doesn’t matter, you only need 35%”, from someone in a position of academic responsibility is quite frightening, and indicative of the wider attitude to education permeating the country. We are obsessed with results, starting at schools where constant assessment is helping to churn out a generation of robots.

I had assumed that this production-line ended at University, where enquiry and exploration around subjects were encouraged. You are quite likely to hear students talking about only needing 35% to pass a year, but that is their prerogative, their choice to squander their time. However, if this is really Haynes’s view, then we should all feel let down. Yes, we are adults now, but the large majority of us still need guidance, help and encouragement with our work, and the attitude of Haynes makes a mockery of this.

This exam-centric view pervades education. Children as young as five are taking exams, used by the Government and Educational authorities to examine the performances of pupils and schools. This concentration on tests is disgraceful; five year olds shouldn’t face such pressure.
Working as a teaching assistant at a primary school, I saw children reduced to tears by the weight of their workload. This unnecessary stress is due to a drive to halt the apparent decline in educational standards. This will not help; what is really required to raise the state of education is more emphasis on encouragement and helping students reach potential.

This is lacking throughout education. Ask yourself, what really inspired you to do the subject you are now doing? Was it a teacher who taught you the syllabus and got you good grades? Or was it one who inspired your interest in the subject, who, god forbid, encouraged you to explore it in your spare time? Endless exams are not the way forward. Teachers should focus instead on inspiring pupils, at all levels.

Your experiences here mark the transition period from protected childhood to adult responsibility. What sort of a message is it, when you’re told, “it doesn’t matter if you have just wasted your first year, all you need is to pass an exam”? Judging by the state of education, this is likely to become a common attitude in the not too distant future.

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