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Teaching knowledge "absolutely essential"

06/10/2011 Joanna
Teaching jobs should be more focused on imparting knowledge to pupils instead of more progressive educational methods, the Conservative Party Conference has heard.

Giving the fifth annual Sir John Cass’s Foundation Lecture to the conference yesterday (October 5th), Katharine Birbalsingh, said the concept of teaching knowledge has almost entirely disappeared from classrooms over the last 30 years.

Ms Birbalsingh, who lost her job as a deputy head at a school in London following a similarly passionate criticism of state education in a speech last year, was scathing towards so-called "progressive" teaching methods.

While tried and tested methods such as learning vocabulary lists and memorising historical facts are considered old-fashioned, Ms Birbalsingh argued that without such information it is impossible for children to learn new things.

She told the conference: “Instead, we think it better to inspire children to be creative through group discussion and project work.

But background knowledge is absolutely essential to enable children to absorb new ideas.”

The teacher is currently attempting to open a state-funded Free School in a borough of south London.

She recalled instances where pupils' lack of knowledge seriously impeded their ability to learn.

"I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had conversations with kids about Winston Churchill where they think he’s ‘that dog’ off the insurance advert from TV," she said.

Citing examples of 14-year-olds who do not know the difference between France and Paris, Ms Birbalsingh said that teachers should return to the traditional role as a fountain of knowledge at the front of the classroom.

She went on to criticise the way in which children are taught in groups of desks instead of rows.

While the education system demands children constantly be "doing" something, she argued that this undermines the teaching of knowledge.

More time should be spent consuming facts and less time dedicated to working in teams and making presentations, she claimed.

Posted by Harriet McGowanADNFCR-2164-ID-800750590-ADNFCR
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