Written by Matthew:
I read this week with some horror about the Rabia Girls and Boys School in Luton which was limiting its female students to traditional domestic activity within Technologies. I can’t really get across the sense of horror and of amazement that this could be happening here in the UK in 2015! There is a lot to be proud of in our modern society and in our approaches to learning and equality, however we have much to be deeply ashamed of, and this sad story is a shocking example. OFSTED, the English school standards body has rightly stepped in to demand changes, however it raises some really fundamental questions.
Here in Scotland we are currently introducing a “named person” (usually from education) for every child and young person, with responsibilities for child protection safeguards regardless of the social background of the young person. This is not without opposition, with many parents feeling angry that this is an intrusion into the privacy of the family. It looks like this will go ahead anyway, and in this case an agreed standard of what is good for childrens’ well-being has “trumped” individual parental rights to impose their views.
This is a moral mess for us as a learning society. We are inconsistent about what parental choice means? We allow parents to home-educate whether they have the ability to provide quality teaching or not. Parents are also allowed to impose religious views and practices on young people regardless of whether they are old enough to make such choices. In some cases parents are even allowed to circumcise children who are again too young to make such choices for themselves. (Female circumcision is illegal in the UK and educators have been actively encouraged to look out for signs of its occurrence).
So why isn’t it OK for the school to discriminate against its girls, after all the parents chose the school? Is it time for us to take the rights of the child more seriously and consistently. should we perhaps establish binding principles for children’s education, and maybe even upbringing, whether parents consider that they know better or not?