Google+ Authentic Parenting: The Hiërarchical School System and its Effects: On Worth, Separation, Class, Equality and Freedom

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Hiërarchical School System and its Effects: On Worth, Separation, Class, Equality and Freedom

In this money driven world, it seems as though every aspect of life is infused with the concept of 'worth' or 'value'. All things in life, material or non-material are measured, weighed and categorized. Some things are worth more than others, some choices are valued higher than the alternative.

This is equally true for our education system
(speaking of Belgium here), some courses are deemed more important than others, some directions one can take are valued more and some directions are clearly labelled as the trash cans of the education system.
Belgian's secondary schooling system is hierarchical - also called the cascade system. Students generally start as high as their 'mental capacities' allow them to, and - depending on their grades - they can cascade downward towards less worthy directions.

We have four categories of schools

Arts (which is actually part of either technical or professional education, but is generally taught at seperate schools)

So one might start off at General and end up in Technical school or Professional. Most students try to start off in general school, unless they had proven to be really 'dumb' or 'slow' in primary school and then they start of lower. (arts students are most often there by choice, if allowed by their parents).

There is also an internal hierarchy within the different school types. The more mathematical/scientifical or ancient languages are valued higher than the directions with a lot of languages.
I won't go into detail about the different directions and when one can choose those, that would make up an entire book.

Let's state it simply that Math/Science is the most valued directions a student can be in, because they can choose any college or university BaMa they want to be in.

What I am trying to get to - excuse my deviations, is that this system also places value on the students. Those who end up in general studying Math are thought have a brighter future than the ones who study hairdressing in professional. Feelings of superiority and inferiority are created, as are seperations between the 'classes' (as they are put in different physical schools - even on the rare occasion that one school has the four categories, there will be seperate buildings and students will have little or no interactions with other categories). This leads to high degrees of intolerance both ways. General Education students will think the professional ones are ignorant, vice versa, they will think the general students are snobbish/intellectualist.

How can countries claim to be egalitarian, if they separate children into different boxes who are worth more or less from early childhood. (there are also two systems in primary school)? How can we intend the child to choose freely if so much worth is placed in the choice they make (if at all they are able to make a choice themselves)? How can we expect a student who slips down to keep his selfworth intact? Or a student who has to start at the bottom, with no possibility of moving up.

Isn't it unconstitutional to treat children this way from early infancy? All Belgians are legally equal and
Belgian constitution does not separate the classes... Then why does their schooling system?

And then you'll tell me unschooling is madness.



  1. I think it is a misguided attempt to "individualize" public education. I don't know much about it as I am American and have only heard brief summaries of other countries' school systems. In the US we do offer "advanced" classes for "gifted" students. Truthfully I am forever grateful for that because it really helped nurture me, but even so those classes were voluntary. Heck, if you really wanted to take the advanced class and didn't have qualifying grades, you could always petition to get in... still all of this is pitiful compared to the individualization possible with homeschooling.


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