Are UK schools better or worse than Australian schools?

It was revealed this week that one in five UK children graduate from primary school without the basic understanding of mathematics. When I was at school I was never very good at maths but my parents made me take after school classes in primary school and then in high school I had one-on-one tutoring in order to pass my exams. This really helped and without it I don’t think I would’ve done so well. (Not that I did fantastically, but I passed.)

My partner is currently working as a teacher’s assistant, teaching children who are 10 years old. He said that his class couldn’t figure out that a half was 50 per cent. I’m sure when I was 10 I knew that.  Did you? However, my boyfriend teaches at an under-privileged school and he said it’s not necessarily the teachers to blame.

Half the time the children in his class don’t turn up for school and they’re not being pushed by their parents at home to attend. Neither are their parents helping them with their homework. He said that when they had a parent and teacher meeting, only two parents turned up. Low and behold, they happened to be the parents of the two top students in the class.

The other problem, my boyfriend says, is that no one in his class has English as a first language. Many of the children are from war torn nations such as Sudan and Ethiopia and do not speak English at home. He said that this creates problems when he’s trying to teach them because sometimes they have problems understanding what he says. Not only this, but his teacher is from Jamaica and has a thick accent that a lot of the children struggle to understand.

Are there similar problems in the Australian school system? I know that the paying schools, at least in Western Australia, often seem to do better than the public school system. In the last end-of-year exam results in WA, eight of the ten top schools were private. Does this mean that the parents sending their children to private schools are getting better education, or do the parents who can afford to send their kids to private schools push their children more?

Whatever the case, I think something needs to be urgently done about the British school system. Recently on Dispatches, primary school teachers were asked to sit a maths test for 10 year olds. The average grade was 43 per cent and only one teacher got all the questions right. If the teachers don’t know the maths, how are the students meant to learn it?

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