I was whisked off the road for a few days while Ella and I attended the wedding of a good friend of hers at Oxford University’s Exeter college.
The whole experience was rather wonderful – from the college chapel to the hall where the reception was held – the same hall where students enjoy their fancy-dan meals.
At all times we were surrounded by impressive stained glass and sumptuous architecture that reflects the establishment of the college in 1314.
For those unfamiliar with the 24 hour clock, that’s about quarter past one.
During the shindig, I had the happy privilege of speaking to the minister, er, reverend, father bloke…getting a little insight into the running of the place.
I suggested the whole environment reflected a great respect of the student and the learning experience.
‘Where are the lecture theatres?’ I asked naively.
‘I think they’re considering building one in the next couple of years…’ the father came back vaguely.
‘How do they…?’
He told me that, at this part of Oxford Uni at any rate, they taught through tutorial – a system where the teaching ratio can be anything between 1-1 to as much as 1-6. Yes, overcrowded I know.
Decadent? Over privileged? Possibly the way things should be?
I recently spoke to a couple of teachers working in state comprehensive schools. Apparently there’s currently a push to get classes down to about 30.
I’ve been kicking about the UK for about 48 years. There’s always been a push to get class sizes down to around 30.
What’s getting in the way?
Well, teachers cost money.
But what about the notion of investment in the future? Policies on just about everything seem to be short term – fire fighting – inefficient – lasting roughly the term of one parliament.
Why is it that an institute of great brainyness, like Oxford University, sees the benefit of very low student to staff ratios in an environment where they’re working with a bunch of highly motivated learners, when the same respect – where nothing near the same respect – is offered to youthful punters in altogether more challenging situations?
What if as a country we planned – we invested in our future – our people – by showing them they are valuable and deserving of respect?
Imagine that future.
Imagine feeding the millions of curious young minds with a voracious appetite for knowledge.
This doesn’t take a think tank to work out the productivity and the cost per future widget.
Surely it’s obvious.
Walk a mile