Progress or regress?

Recently I blogged about my first day at primary school. Things are different nowadays:

Four-year-olds are worked hard. They are exhausted at the end of the school-day. Some four-year-olds, at least, are expected to do homework on top of their schoolwork. I checked with Mrs CJ’s grandsons, and Charlie confirmed that four-year-old Karl is given homework — phonics, by the sound [!] of it.
I don’t remember ever being exhausted after a day spent at Metroland Primary. Homework? We never had homework until the age of ten. By that age, we were getting ready for the eleven-plus exams. The associated homework was voluntary — our parents had the choice of whether we did it or not.

Primary school classes are much smaller than they used to be. My class varied in size, as children joined and left. At its smallest there were (IIRC) 39 children in the class, and at its largest there were 43 or 44.

Nowadays there are teaching assistants as well as teachers. When I was at primary school, the teacher had no-one to assist her.

So why aren’t children in the 2010s achieving far higher standards than my generation did? I’m genuinely puzzled.
It’s easy to say it’s all the fault of TV / the internet / games consoles / political correctness / dumbing-down… but how convincing are those explanations?

[Original posting 20 October 2011]

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