Back to school

September 17, 2009

There are many problems with what Richard Austen-Baker says about teaching in schools and universities (Letters, 10 September).

First, the idea that school teaching is simply meant to "maximise retention by pupils of the knowledge being passed on to them" is dreadfully wrong. It is vital for teachers to develop their pupils' thinking, independent learning and communication skills if they are to prepare them for the wider world - not least higher education.

Second, there is no empirical evidence that British children today are "less numerate, less literate and more ignorant" than in previous generations. And third, Austen-Baker's assertions about the ineffectiveness of teacher training do not match the evidence that countries whose schools achieve the best results are those that provide the most resources, time and funding to the training of teachers: Finland is the most obvious example.

Austen-Baker lectures in law, not education, so hopefully nobody takes his flights of fancy in Times Higher Education seriously. But I would be glad if he could direct me to evidence that "law schools" are the best way to train lawyers.

Neil Mercer, Faculty of education and Hughes Hall, University of Cambridge.

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