This post is the for the required activity 4.1 in Coursera's massive online open course (MOOC) 'What Future for Education?' from London University's Institute of Education. To follow the thread on this blog, use the label FutEd.
Reflect on your own schooling. Did you go to a 'good' school? What 'residuals' did you take away from your school and how has it helped you subsequently?
I went to school in Northern Ireland which is generally considered to have a good education system, and my schooling happened in the days of the Eleven Plus exam, which set me on the path to a grammar school. This meant that I was in a stream where progression to university was the expected norm, so my teachers had high academic expectations of me and - for better or worse, and possibly at the expense of other developments - bent their efforts toward us securing the best possible exam grades to ensure entrance to a university they would be proud to boast of in their publicity.
My school was extremely hierarchical and there was absolutely no 'voice and choice'. It was very much one-size-fits-all, and we were expected to shape up or ship out. Discipline was strictly enforced, with aberrations in uniform being the usual reason for the deputy headmistress' admonishments, rather than the behaviours I've seen in my own professional career in the classroom. We did not so much as roll our eyes at teachers, although - of course - we had our own, more subtle, ways of rebelling.
What was useful from my education? Well, primarily the grades I received and the doors they opened for me, most obviously being those of higher education. I went to a top university and gained my degree using the same 'cram and regurgitate' skills I'd learned at school, although with a rather fuller extra-curricular timetable as you can imagine.
Looking back, I am very appreciative of the education I received - because I am happy where it lead - but I also think I experienced many examples of how not to teach which inform my own practice. The teachers certainly had our best interests at heart but those interests were concerned almost solely with results.
In terms of holistic education, it was a faith school so they did attend to 'character building' within the framework of the church, but the idea of an explicitly or consciously holistic education didn't seem to feature otherwise. (For example, when I went to university and people talked of a 'gap year', I thought they'd been working for the clothes company!)