> Skip to content

Article  •  11 July 2016


Examining education

Beautiful Failures author Lucy Clark dispels some well-worn education myths.

There are many accepted wisdoms about the way we educate our kids, and we generally have such a healthy respect for authority that we never question them. It’s only when things go wrong – as they did for my daughter – that we start looking at them from a completely different perspective. I think of Beautiful Failures as an incredible journey of discovery that started with me questioning the overarching accepted wisdom that ‘school is not for everyone’.

Shouldn’t school be for everyone? Why are so many kids disengaged or feeling wrong at school? As I asked questions I saw more and more accepted wisdoms turning on their heads. Here are some of the things I learnt.

Competition is not necessary for a good education.
This was probably the most confronting notion for parents to accept as I talked to them about learning. We have all ingested the message that competing with one another is the way to get ahead, and when we see education as a race to be won – you’ve got to beat the next kid – we assume that competition is the very foundation to education. It’s not.

Stage not age.
This is challenging – little kids in classes with bigger kids and vice-versa? Yet when you think about it, school is the only time in life we advance in age groups. With up to six years’ ability variance in classes, it makes so much sense to consider grouping kids by ability rather than by age. Doing so is proven to reduce bullying, too.

Stop talking about grades.
We have become obsessed with outcomes. Grades, letters, scores – they are the easy handles we hang onto to check how well our kids are doing. They don’t even begin to tell the whole story. Stop talking to your kids about whether they are going to get an A or a B, and start talking to them about what they are learning, what they like about it; and find out what sort of learner they are.

Put kids in charge of their learning.
What? Let kids run the show? Aren’t the teachers in charge? Well, yes, they are, but as kids get older if they are more involved with their own learning they will become more engaged with the material and much more likely to actually enjoy their education.

Generally broaden notions of success.
We measure such a small element of kids’ outcomes, so we have come to believe that academic results are all that matter. Not only is this misguided, but a dogged focus on academic outcomes is bad for learning, and bad for kids. We must pay attention to the softer skills children have – their creativity and their emotional intelligence, for example − and look at other ways for them to feel smart.

Beautiful Failures Lucy Clark

'I want to tell you a story about my daughter, my beautiful failure. Every day of her high school life was a struggle. She woke up in the morning and the thought of going to school was like an enormous mountain to climb.'

Buy now
Buy now

More features

See all
Coping with school pressures

Beautiful Failures author Lucy Clark offers 10 tips for parents.

A doctor shares the key things you should know about histamine intolerance

What are the symptoms of a histamine intolerance? What even is a histamine intolerance? And how do you get rid of one? Dr Will Bulsiewicz breaks it down in The Fibre Fuelled Cookbook.

Meet the 6 most important characters from The Summer I Turned Pretty

Meet the characters from The Summer I Turned Pretty books. Learn about the main characters and important family members who play a role in the trilogy.

Quiz: Which The Summer I Turned Pretty character am I?

Take this quiz to find out which character you’re most like from The Summer I Turned Pretty.

Author shares the one theme nobody has noticed in new children’s book

All about Gabrielle Wang's new book, Zadie Ma and the Dog Who Chased the Moon.

Try a new genre with an audiobook

Want to try something new? These popular audiobooks from different genres will help you explore new subjects and themes while listening. You might just discover an unexpected favourite!

The easy breathing technique that will help reduce your anxiety

These five easy steps will teach you how to do square breathing for anxiety. Using this simple mindfulness tool can help lower your heart rate and curb anxious thoughts the moment they arise.

Anita Heiss awarded Member of the Order of Australia for Queen’s Birthday 2022

Author of Am I Black Enough For You?, Anita Heiss, has received an AM for services to tertiary Indigenous Studies and the Arts.

To Your Eternity: Everything you need to know about the popular manga series

All about To Your Eternity, the manga series that has taken the world by storm.

Julia Gillard announces new book, Not Now, Not Ever

Ten years after the famous Misogyny Speech comes Julia Gillard's new book, Not Now, Not Ever.

The interesting reason why James Patterson began writing at 18

When did James Patterson start writing? It might be earlier than you expect. At the mere age of eighteen, he began scribbling down short stories and the rest is history.

10 amazing fun facts about Dolly Alderton

Learn about her favourite sandwich, hair advice, and career journey thus far.

Looking for more articles?

See all articles