Popular TV survivalist, adventurer and ex-SAS soldier, Bear Grylls, has called for an attitude change in the British education system.
A father of 3 young boys, he was recently berated by one of his son’s teachers, who argued that his son needed to focus more on maths, as opposed to outdoor activities.
Bear commented that:
“If I had a school it wouldn’t be maths and Latin and Greek.
“It would be: how to get on with people, how to put teams together, how to manage risk, how to keep fit, how to eat healthy – that sort of stuff. But then I think everyone would think I was mad.”
Perhaps they wouldn’t though. Bear certainly has some high profile backers, with Prince Charles commenting in 2013 that:
“Life skills, which consist of developing self-esteem, self-confidence – looking people in the eye – all these things are not taught in schools or hardly at all…if at the end of the day you can’t actually cope with the world out there, the kind of interaction that’s required of people, it is impossible, it seems to me, to manage, let alone to be employable.”
Yet it’s not just employability which life-skills can develop. As Chief Scout since July 2009, something he cites as a “huge honour”, Bear has credited the organisation and its programme with the ability to “empower kids” by:
“Reaching the hardest parts of society and giving kids who most need it adventure and purpose and values about friendship and loyalty and family.
“I think as a nation and as a society we’ve never needed that more.”
The skills Bear is referring to aren’t typically a focus in schools, with Ofsted accreditations and GCSE grades to worry about, but arguably, he’s right, they should be.
By getting outdoors and being physically active, working in teams, facing and managing risks and learning how to eat healthily, school pupils are being given the tools to become self-sufficient, well-rounded individuals. Even NHS guidelines cite fresh air, exercise and a balanced diet as important in preventing and coping with mental health issues; while our recent blog post looked at the links between developing ‘grit’ and succeeding in life more generally.
Encouraging pupils to develop these qualities can contribute to a healthier society. And as well as encouraging physical and mental resilience, they are also preventative. There are a huge amount of worrying influences in society today. The news is littered with tragic incidents such as the children groomed and sexually abused in Rotherham, and three girls who recently travelled to Syria after possibly being influenced online by ISIS. Could risk-management skills and a commitment to developing children’s self-esteem through “adventure and purpose” have an impact on such issues?
It’d take more than a blog to delve into this, but it is food for thought. If we’re not teaching children how to cope with danger and build their self-worth by achieving things they thought too difficult, then real-life will be even more of a minefield for them.
There are some wonderful extra-curricular opportunities for young people today, such as the Scouts and Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme among many others, but without parental backing (ranging from their time to money and also emotional support) it can be difficult for children to join-up and maintain a commitment to such programmes. If schools provided a greater focus on these invaluable life-lessons, more children would experience the kind of empowerment gained through these extra-curricular experiences.
Perhaps Bear Grylls’ school isn’t such a “mad” idea after all?