Last week, on the 5th February, Comic Relief celebrates 25 years since its inception. 25 years of sending British experts to help set up what we believe to be the ‘right’ way to educate and medicate a population. The day after, Malala Yousafzai spoke publicly about her recovery from a bullet to her head thanks to British doctors. Despite nearly losing her life for the cause, she is still committed to ensuring that all children gain an education.
Meanwhile, the British government is scrimping and saving wherever it can to minimise spending on educational services at home. The announcement last week that they want to raise the student-teacher ratio in nursery schools demonstrates how few of the politicians in charge of organising educational provision have actually tried to control, entertain and educate a classroom of three and four year olds.
The idea that children do not need one-to-one attention and that they won’t remember any feelings of insignificance they might feel at such a young age is outdated. Children do not start learning in their first year at primary school, and they certainly need cross-discipline educational experiences in their early years that might not be provided at home. Nursery school provides a child’s foundation: build a house on weak foundations because you don’t have the time or money to do it properly and the house will crumble sooner or later.
If we want to produce happy, confident, intelligent children, we need to spend money on ensuring that the environment they spend their days in is set up to develop them as an individual, rather than simply providing warehouses for parents to dump their children in whilst they’re at work. If nursery teachers become responsible for more children, they will inevitably not be able to focus so much attention on each child. Children will slip through the net. It is impossible to make savings without adversely affecting someone: do we really want to create a generation of individuals who will require expensive mental health services in the future just to make a saving now?
Perhaps politicians in the education department should take a sabbatical and spend some time doing an unpaid internship in a nursery school. I doubt they would still have the same attitude towards the importance of ensuring that multiple children do not have to fight for the attention of an overworked carer.