Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, join me as we embark on a personal journey through the evolution of education over the past 50 years, looking at my own schooling in an outrageous British school in the early 1970s and comparing it to schools in the UAE today. Students reading this, and probably more than a few teachers, will be shaken, if not completely traumatised.
I attended a school in the suburbs of England’s second city, Birmingham, where the dreams of innocent children shrivelled and died. It was a place where education took a backseat and pandemonium was the order of the day. So without further ado, let us begin this voyage through the corridors of this educational abyss.
GUARANTEED TO LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS
Boldmere High School for Boys was the name of this institution, and I can name it because it closed shortly after I graduated in 1972. Firstly, Boldmere was a masterclass in architectural confusion. Designed by someone with an unwavering commitment to disorientation, it boasted a layout that would make even the most seasoned cartographers break out in a sweat. Trying to find your way from the sole science laboratory to the sports fields felt like an expedition into the Borneo Rainforest.
Compare that to today’s schools in the UAE, where the architecture and design are actually created with children in mind. One only has to look at schools such as Citizens and Repton to realise the giant strides that have been taken over the last half a century. Back in my day, these schools would have looked like science fiction.
Boldmere cafeteria deserves a special mention. It was a gastronomic adventure that rivalled the finest Michelin-starred restaurants in its commitment to mystery. You’d find yourself playing a thrilling game of ‘Guess the Unidentified Meat’, and if you were lucky, you might even stumble upon a dish that defied the laws of physics and biology simultaneously.
Today, schools in the UAE have cafeterias that would grace any high street. Children at Bloom World Academy, for instance, eat in bistros, with the youngsters in Bloom Nursery having their own Primo bistro, a little cafe where they go to eat with their own little tables and chairs. Indeed, wherever you look in the UAE, school cafeterias have evolved to provide healthier, more appealing, and culturally diverse dining options. At Boldmere, we just had British cuisine, and, as there is no such thing as British cuisine, it’s hard to get across how bland it actually was.
INTO THE FURNACE OF ADVERSITY
Now, let’s talk about the school’s curriculum, or lack thereof. Boldmere proudly adhered to the ‘Trial by Fire’ method of education. Think ‘Hunger Games’, but with algebra instead of arrows. It was a Darwinian approach to learning, where only the fittest (or sneakiest) survived.
Compare that to the broad array of opportunities available in the various curricula in UAE schools, where traditional rote learning and memorisation have given way to more interactive and studentcentred approaches, emphasising critical thinking, problem-solving, and creativity. Curriculum content has adapted to reflect societal changes and advancements in knowledge, and subjects like computer science, sustainability and the environment, and digital literacy have become essential components of modern education. In 1970s England, ‘high-tech’ was a Bunsen burner, while sustainability and the environment consisted primarily of not dropping litter in the playground.
Extracurricular activities at Boldmere were equally captivating. The debate team’s meetings often devolved into shouting matches, where eloquence was replaced with decibels. And who could forget the art club, which specialised in avant-garde installations like ‘Old Chewing Gum on a Pile of Broken Dreams’?
OFFICIALLY UNEMPLOYED, BUT GRADUATED NONETHELESS
Let’s not overlook the faculty at Boldmere either, who were a delightful blend of the underqualified and overworked. The teachers had a unique talent for turning the simplest of subjects into complex riddles, where the solution was concealed behind layers of ambiguity.
The headmaster, who resembled a character straight out of a children’s book, spent most of his time locked in his office, attempting to decipher the school’s budget with a magnifying glass. Today’s teachers are a different breed altogether; for a start, they seem to like children. That might seem like an obvious statement, but it wasn’t always the case – at least, not at Boldmere. Although, in fairness, the school did have two excellent teachers, and one in particular is the reason I’m locked in a cupboard today writing this.
Finally, Boldmere’s graduation ceremony was a wonder to behold. Held in a run-down auditorium that doubled as a haunted house attraction during Halloween, it featured a speech that was essentially a series of vague life advice mixed with questionable jokes. Graduates were then handed their various certificates along with a survival kit containing a flashlight, a map of the school, and a bar of soap to wash away the memories.
While many parents from all over the world will no doubt have had similar experiences, with underwhelming facilities and educators, this story shines a light even more brightly on the school amenities and opportunities our kids now have available to them throughout the UAE, where the education system provides students with a safe, nurturing environment where diversity is celebrated and academic rigour is unparalleled.
In conclusion, this particular school was a satirical wonderland where you were more likely to learn the art of survival than any academic subject. So, here’s to Boldmere High School for Boys, where every day was a new adventure in the pursuit of an education that was anything but conventional. Think yourself lucky, kids!
Rod Millington Fashioning words into prose with the grace of a ballerina on caffeine, Rod Millington, when not wrestling with writer’s block, weaves tales as intricate as his cat’s labyrinthine plot to steal his last donut. When not typing away, he’s on a quest to find the perfect writing snack – and maybe, just maybe, world domination through puns.