Whilst working as a researcher and speechwriter in Parliament last year, a staffer from the Chinese Embassy asked me why the British media continually talked down students' achievements. I was shocked to find that the indignation we display towards young people in this country is reported around the world
What did you learn about breastfeeding in school? Chances are - not much. Whether you were a pupil in the 1950s or the 1990s, it's unlikely you were told anything at all about nursing a baby, because breastfeeding has never ever been a statutory requirement on the National Curriculum, and it still isn't, even today. Teenagers are taught about alcohol, emotions, contraception, cultural diversity and more as part of their PSHE lessons. But breastfeeding?
Education systems vary the world over and it's easy to think that everybody does it better than we do. The grass somehow looks greener in a foreign classroom. In China, as the end of term approaches, the priorities skew towards classes getting the highest possible marks. Passing the exam is exaggerated beyond belief and the system doesn't look the least bit green.
Having just been at the national opening ceremony of the Teach First Summer Institute 2012, I have been considering the fate of all 997 of those smiling, fresh-faced new teachers. They are about to embark on one of the hardest journeys a young professional can experience; they are about to start teaching in tough, inner-city schools.
We live in a world where pragmatism dominates idealism. Does a nurse or an accountant provide more value to society? When faced with a question like this, the idealists among us would question the definition of "value". By contrast, the pragmatists would revert to the only objective benchmark available and declare that six figures are better than five.
One of the most detrimental periods in a child's life is the summer holiday. It is soon to be an issue that will impact many children in Britain, as schools will soon break up for summer; and learning will slip a dramatically. The summer learning loss is one that currently has negative consequences in later life, and must be dealt with immediately.