STEM Subjects: Are they really Superior?

The term STEM refers to a group of subjects; science, technology, engineering and mathematics. All have their own branch subjects as well, such as chemistry and physics for science, and these are considered to be STEM fields also. Obviously, then, it’s an important area of study – but does that mean STEM subjects are the best to pursue, definitively? Are they popular? Are they completely superior to all other subjects in every regard? Let’s do some further investigating and uncover the truth of the matter!

Level of Interest

We can start with the most obvious way to gauge if something really is living up to the hype: determining its popularity. No one is disputing that STEM fields are vital, and each year many talented and innovative minds gravitate towards these areas. Every breakthrough society that has been has, in one way or another, stemmed (pun not intended) from the STEM arena.

But how has that interest fluctuated as time’s gone on? Well, using data from 2013 in a 2017 study, the University of Cambridge discovered that the most popular country for STEM study was actually Germany, with 36% of their students studying in these fields. Only 19% of students in the United States followed suit. The UK didn’t fare much better, as interest waned significantly in Information and Communication technologies, with a mere 9% uptake – a sure surprise in today’s digitised and computer-centric world. Clearly, these aren’t ground-breaking figures.

It could be said that, to some degree, more creative subjects attract a higher intake of students. Lifelong passions become moneymaking opportunities, and there could be greater room for working on things that are perhaps more universally cherished (music, performance, literature, etc). In any event, STEM subjects need a popularity boost!

Discrimination and Behaviour

Needless to say, any career path or academic subject that discriminates on any basis is far from being considered ‘superior’ at all. The aforementioned study from Cambridge regarding STEM subjects simultaneously revealed that there’s a huge gender disparity at the heart of these fields. More men sign up and study these subjects than women in a heavily disproportionate number.

Through a blend of crippling stereotypes and outlandish misconceptions, STEM subjects still fail to involve many women and girls the world over. This isn’t just a minor quibble, but a major problem festering at the heart of these fields, and indeed in other professional circles too. Still, it’s worth mentioning that the arts are practically open to all and are spearheading the movement for representation and equality in all its forms.

A lot of snobbery and antagonistic behaviour can originate here too, so from an attitude and behavioural standpoint, things definitely need to improve. Some might see the unforgiving nature of the STEM field as a process of elimination in ‘weeding out the weak ones’, but frankly, that’s not an entirely helpful or welcoming culture to promote. It’s worth noting that not everyone in the STEM fields subscribes to these attitudes, but on a whole, some changes need to be made.

Job Availability

STEM subjects typically lead to better job prospects. There’s no way around this; the breadth of practical knowledge students acquire in these fields is astounding. The job market is always demanding graduates with these skills, offering great career enhancing opportunities for those who’ve gone down this route. Few STEM graduates will have a hard time finding work.
Should they fail to find a role that suits them, some of these graduates then strike out and launch their own start up tech businesses instead. In that sense, it’s far easier for them to create their own opportunities too, due to the plethora of knowledge they have at their disposal. Admittedly, some creative graduates could likely follow suit and start their own firm depending on their skills, but many of them unfortunately get stuck in a rut after graduation day and find themselves unemployed or being overqualified for the jobs they’re in.

Rate of Pay

Students who enrol on STEM courses will also have an easier time in securing a high rate of pay. The skills they learn are highly specialist, and the jobs themselves often involve enormous amounts of responsibility. While the arts are fulfilling in their own way and pay ludicrously well for the lucky or famous few, it’s the STEM fields that truly change the world with each passing day. Consequently, the pay in these areas skyrockets accordingly.

Unfortunately, it tends to be quite the reverse for those in the arts. Reportedly, arts graduates cost the taxpayer £35,000 each, simply because countless art graduates never earn enough money to pay back their student loan in full. Obviously, this is a rather concerning discovery, and means that many people enrolled on a creative degree won’t ever earn a truly impactful wage. In fact, numerous art graduates end up earning less than non-graduates, who spent those three years pursuing a career through alternative means.

Of course, pay isn’t everything. What’s more important; having a big house and a nice car or feeling a sense of enjoyment, happiness and pride in every piece of work you produce? It all comes down to perspective. Some STEM workers absolutely despise what they do but do it for the pay, whereas those in the arts sometimes earn very little but adore their passion. Still, it can’t be disputed that, on average, STEM workers do earn more.

Conclusion

It does seem to be the case that STEM fields offer more room for career progression and higher earnings. However, these perks are mostly available to men. Once some of the snobbery fizzles away and more equality arrives in the field, STEM will be deserving of the respect and admiration its enthusiasts already believe it has.

The popularity of foreign language study at GCSE level in the UK appears to be on the decline. In 2002, around three quarters of pupils studied a language other than English as part of their GCSE qualifications. Two years later, the government stopped making languages compulsory at GCSE level, and by 2011, participation had fallen to 40 per cent.

The latest figures as reported on the British Council’s website in 2018, show the number of 16-year olds studying a language is 47 per cent. There’s work to be done to get this figure back to 2002 highs.

If you’ve ever studied a second language or are even currently considering learning one, you may have faced (or been put off by) challenges posed by more traditional learning methods, including a classroom filled with people of varying ability levels, experiences and personalities.

Some of the other potential pitfalls of learning a foreign language via a classroom-based fixed curriculum include dialogues being spoken too quickly, the pace of learning being focused on a timetable, and study being focused on a group’s ability rather than that of an individual. Any of these things can lead to students feeling rushed and unprepared for exams.

Beyond the Classroom

However, with the passing of time and advances in technology, there have been some interesting recent developments in online language learning. Netflix, the American media-services provider, have brought language learning to your front room, with Language Learning, a Chrome extension which allows the learning of language from films and series of programmes.

The ability to compare a translation with the audio (sound) and written word means that you are able to take in a lot of information in a quick timescale. It also enables you to go at a self-directed pace, taking one sentence at a time, allowing plenty of time to digest more challenging phrases. There’s even the bonus of a pop-up dictionary when you need to find out the meaning of more challenging words, and the Chrome extension will go as far as telling you which words are important to learn, and which can be set aside for later.

Then there’s the Memrise app, making language learning fun; with a focus on gamification and the use of memes to help memorise vocabulary. Another of the most popular language learning apps, Duolingo, was created by native speakers and also uses gamification to make language learning fun and addictive.

Online learning tools and apps provide an excellent complement to studies for qualifications such as GCSEs and A Levels. They make modern language learning more accessible, easier to take at the student’s pace and, perhaps most importantly, offer a social learning environment that provides relevancy to an individual’s interests and lifestyle.

With so many options available to study languages online, there’s certainly an exciting future for those looking to learn a new language. There are links to the Memrise and DuoLingo websites below.

https://www.duolingo.com/

https://www.memrise.com/

When you think of a hologram, what immediately springs to mind? Sci-fi programmes such as Star Trek? What about a teacher? Maybe not. Think again, because this technology could be the future life of online study, Jim, and it’s not quite as you know it…

Imagine a world where full-size, 360-degree images of teachers or lecturers are projected on-screen and can be viewed without the need for any expensive, special gadgets. It would be a world in which holograms animatedly engaged with students in locations across the globe. Sounds a little far-fetched, doesn’t it? In fact, it’s becoming a reality.

In November 2018 it was announced that University students at Imperial College Business School in London will be the first in the world to have live lectures delivered to them via augmented reality holograms. Could holograms become a firm fixture in the technological armour that is the future of online learning? Or is this nothing more than a passing technology fad?

Augmented reality holograms allow remote students to engage with their tutor in a unique way. The hologram is realised by projecting a live image of a lecturer onto a screen in front of the audience. The lecturer then presents live from another location elsewhere in the country or even the world.

However, using holograms is not a new concept. Music concerts have been delivered using holograms to physically represent artists. In April 2012, a virtual Tupac Shakur took the stage with Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre. It was the first time a hologram had appeared at a live performance in front of a large American crowd.

But does the use of holograms in teaching provide the same authentic feel of having a lecturer or teacher physically present in the lecture hall or classroom? It would certainly seem so. Holograms can engage with students as a present human being would; using gestures such as pointing and making eye contact with their audience.

And what about robots? At America’s Michigan State University, some online students embody robots to enable them to have a ‘presence’ in face-to-face classrooms. This helps draw their learning experience closer to that of their on-campus counterparts. To use the robots, remote (online) learners download free software onto their desktop, laptop or smart device and log in. It enables them to control their movements and zoom level using the arrow keys.

So how did the online students find the experience of being a robot? Quite positive, it seems. They reported feeling more engaged and less prone to distraction compared to using the less developed forms of synchronous online learning. Surprisingly, the result of using the robots showed the on-campus students felt a greater sense of connection to their remote peers.

Online study continues to increase in popularity. Embracing the use of technologies, including holograms and robots, will help play a part in bridging the physical gap between classroom and remote learners. Time to beam you up, teacher!

According to data published by the National Education Union (NEU) and recently conducted research findings of the Education Endowment Fund (EEF) based at University College, London, class sizes in all types of state schools are amongst the highest they have been since 1996. Unsurprisingly, they are also amongst the highest in the EU. Just over 12% of secondary schools are being taught in classes of over 30 pupils. The government dismisses the argument that class size has any negative effects on quality of teaching or educational outcomes, however, thus also dismissing the day-to-day experience of teachers themselves.

Class size, or the ratio of pupils to teachers, raises all sorts of issues. Not least of these is the health and safety standards in Science labs designed to accommodate experimental work in Chemistry, Biology, Physics and Design and Technology. Overcrowded teaching areas increase the risk of serious injury to pupils and teachers alike, particularly in situations where the teacher has to cope with difficult pupils.

Class size also impacts on the teacher’s personal interaction with pupils. Instead of personal attention given to each individual, the teacher is forced to resort to an out-of-date, less chalk-and-talk lesson, where individual work correction and group work becomes impractical. These old methods lose pupil’s attention fast, only serving to produce results such as boredom, resentment. For some it may even lay a path to expulsion. It is a profoundly dispiriting atmosphere to work in.

Overcrowding obviously reduces the time spent on productive work. Desks and chairs have to be rearranged before lessons can be brought to some kind of order, bags and coats have to be stored under desks – there are not usually not enough (if any) pegs to hang coats on. Time is lost when a lot of children have to do this all at once and it does not make for the safest, or most encouraging, environment to learn in.

All of this has a negative effect on progression from GCSE to A level. The most affected are inner-city schools and those living in deprived areas. None of this is “unforeseen consequence”. No costly research is needed to come to such conclusions. Parents, teachers and pupils alike all know it. Yet still the government flatly denies anything is wrong at all.

Class size is increasing at a time when schools when schools are having difficulty in recruiting and retaining staff, whilst also suffering from budget cuts. 94% of primary schools have lost over £250 per pupil, and 95% of secondary schools £340. There is little chance that the situation will materially improve in the short or medium term. Government departments are distracted by their lack of preparation for Brexit, to say nothing of the damage being done whilst the austerity policies work their way through society. There remain few opportunities for extra cash to make any real difference – schools are competing with the NHS, the police and all the other social services.

Michael Gove has recently called for an end to the charitable status held by private and public schools, the sector which along with grammar schools produces a very high percentage of our linguists, scientists and government officials. More and more parents are removing children from mainstream education – at least because of the overcrowding in local schools. The minister’s case for the creation of a level playing field is unlikely to be attained in a climate of such resource imbalance.

Our society, and in particular the generation entering the workforce within the next five years, can look forward to few opportunities for social mobility. Too many will leave school ill-equipped to face the challenges of rapid social and technological change.

According to Ofcom’s Communications Market Report in 2018, people in the UK now check their smartphones, on average, every 12 minutes of the waking day. And a significant 29% say they feel lost without the internet. How does your own usage compare?

In an online world connected 24/7, that offers unlimited potential to learn and share, and is free of geographical boundaries, it is perhaps no surprise that research has shown that online students’ multitasking behaviour is significantly greater than that of their face-to-face, more traditional classroom learning style peers.

Yet as exciting as being constantly connected to the world may be, our increasingly digitally- led lives are making us more distant, drained and distracted than ever, at least according to research presented at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association. One example showed that during a meal with friends, even minor phone use could make the diners feel distracted and reduce their enjoyment of the experience. So there’s certainly good reason to believe that online distractions could have the same negative outcomes for online study.

In fact, there’s a considerable body of research demonstrating the negative impact of multitasking on study, pointing towards significantly reduced learning. Research from Pew Research Center shows that in the US, 8% of teens say they often lose focus in school due to their own cellphones. And when probed about their online habits, roughly nine-in-ten teens believe that spending too much time online is a problem facing people their age, including 60% who consider it a major problem.

Given the statistics, if you’re pursuing online study, it’s imperative that you take time to consider how you can avoid multitasking distracting you from your studies. The key is to learn good practice from the outset; particularly around self-regulation of your behaviour. This includes choosing to study in quiet public areas including libraries, where the use of mobile phones for calls and other devices may not be permitted.

When it comes to digital support to beat the study distractions, there are some excellent apps to try. Flat Tomato helps you to break up tasks into timed blocks, allowing you to feel a sense of urgency and the completion of each task on your ‘to do’ list. The Noisli app plays white noise to suit the mood of whatever you’re looking to achieve. If you simply can’t resist the urge to check your favourite social media app, give Freedom a try. It disables specific websites and apps for a self-defined period of time, preventing you from straying into autopilot newsfeed scrolling territory.

Multitasking and distractions to online study are not going to go away. But by being able to recognise which multitasking habits are helpful and which are a hindrance to your learning, and even trying a few helpful tools to support new positive behaviours, you’ll be on track to overcome the urge to multitask and stay focused on the study at hand.

It’s rare that everyone is completely content with the way UK schools are being run. Whether it’s disgruntled teenagers, concerned parents, or overworked staff members, someone will always have a complaint to make against a school. Are UK education institutions doing enough to appease the naysayers?

Teachers are among the most hardworking individuals in the UK, but even many of them would freely admit that serious flaws are embedded within schools nationwide. There are tensions over many matters in the education arena. Few people are ever satisfied their concerns are being addressed.

With the education sector in so much strife, only one question remains worth answering; how can schools be fundamentally improved?

Ofsted Practices

The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills plays a crucial role in education. Most people know this organisation by their shorthand name, Ofsted. They carry out inspection reports on any institution that’s charged with protecting and educating children; children and families services, residential holiday schemes for disabled children, childminders and childcare providers, colleges, and of course, schools.
Consequently, their efficiency is vital. Ofsted try to hold schools accountable for their failures while also shining a light on their successes. However, because they’re so important to the functionality of schools, people expect thorough investigations and robust results from Ofsted. Are they impervious to criticism here?

Staggeringly, Ofsted itself has admitted some schools they deemed ‘outstanding’ are actually not that good, leading many to question their procedures and ethics. Additionally, in May 2018, a recorded 296 schools had not been inspected by Ofsted for 10 years or more. It doesn’t stop there, with 28% of headteachers surveyed openly admitting that Ofsted inspections did not lead to improvements in their school. Certainly, this isn’t good enough. Ofsted need to be held accountable for these lacklustre practices and reach more schools with better feedback. Only then can the institutions make improvements.

Overworked Teachers

Of course, the many instances of overworked teachers have been well documented and publicised by now. Teachers across the UK are burnt out, phoning in off sick or quitting entirely when the stress starts bombarding them. Obviously, this is deeply concerning. Teaching is supposed to be a passion, a reason to get up every day and pass on knowledge, wisdom and skills.

When somebody doesn’t want to do their job, or can’t do their job, numerous complications are bound to arise. Can replacements be found? Are staff taking too many days off? Is the quality of their teaching suffering alongside their wellbeing? Higher pay, shorter hours and extra support would no doubt facilitate improvements here. With teachers voicing their concerns in bigger numbers than ever before, schools should simply listen and act. Through that dialogue, improvements can undoubtedly be made.

Mental Health Services

Of course, it’s not just teachers that suffer. As discussions around mental health circulate in the media, many children are becoming more courageous in seeking help for their problems. Unfortunately, many schools are left to pay for their mental health services themselves, which puts strain on their budgets. It’s extremely tough for them to organise and fund so many moving parts to their institutions and ensure that every pupil feels heard.

Many such schools have detailed the ‘significant challenges’ they face in meeting these mental health needs, with lengthy referral processes and delays in pupils accessing school support services being among the key causes of concern for them. Pupil bereavement often comes out of nowhere, and sometimes those same pupils don’t receive help for weeks or months after they ask for it.

However, things could be improved here through more counsellors being recruited, and more mental health facilities being put into practice. Additionally, if parents became more aware of their children’s struggles, they could put them into specialist care or therapy, which may alleviate at least some of the pressure on schools. Ultimately though, more funding and resources are needed for schools to meet the demand.

More Variety

School can feel like a very rigid, hollow and overbearing environment. Timetables bring structure, teachers enforce rules and strict dress codes, buildings are devoid of personality or warmth. Perhaps school should be a very formal and straightforward environment, but when pupils feel intimidated or like they don’t belong, these influences don’t do much to help them ease into their talents.

One way of solving these kinds of issues is to offer up more vocational subjects for pupils to engage with. Additionally, further clubs and after school activities could be implemented to ensure that schools offer something for everyone. When pupils feel like they’re enriching their lives and actively pursuing their more productive interests, schools will find that all aspects of their institution will improve.

On 25th January 2019, the Doomsday Clock was moved closer to midnight, from three to two and a half minutes to twelve.

Created by the board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in 1947, the Doomsday Clock began as a visual representation of the world’s response to nuclear threats. In contrast to the perils it represents, the idea of the clock is very simple. The nearer to midnight the minute hand is placed, the closer the board of Atomic Scientists believes the world is to disaster. Midnight being a representation of the moment of a worldwide apocalypse.

The aim of this shock tactic is to raise awareness of how close human beings are getting to destroying the planet they inhabit. Speaking to USA Today, a representative from the Atomic Scientists explained that the clock “conveys how close we are to destroying our civilisation with dangerous technologies of our own making.”

When the Doomsday Clock was first invented, the scientists involved were also working on the Manhattan Project; a programme responsible for the construction of the first nuclear weapons. Very aware of the consequences of what they were doing, they introduced the clock to warn of the weapons’ power. In this first instance, the hands were set at 7 minutes to midnight.

Since its birth, the clock hands have been moved backwards and forwards. At its ‘safest,’ it was set at seventeen minutes to midnight in 1991. In 1953, at the height of the Cold War, the clock hands were moved to two minutes to midnight, when the USA invented the hydrogen bomb.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists gives the reason behind the current placement of the hands at two and a half minutes to minute in 2019, as “the failure of President Trump and other world leaders to deal with looming threats of nuclear war and climate change”.

There is no doubt that the reasoning behind the Doomsday Clock is both serious and worrying, but what factors are used to conclude its position?
Eugene Rabinowitch, from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, explains that several factors are taken into consideration when deciding the placement of the hands. These include nuclear threats, climate change, bioterrorism, biosecurity and side threats, such as cyber warfare. “The Bulletin’s clock is not a gauge to register the ups and downs of the international power struggle; it is intended to reflect basic changes in the level of continuous danger in which mankind lives in the nuclear age.”

Just how accurate is the Doomsday Clock, then? Well, the sad truth is that we won’t know until it’s too late. It can’t be denied however, that it does make you stop and think.

Education is constantly evolving. Billed as one of the fastest growing tech markets in the UK,  our schools collectively spend more than £900 million a year on education technology, or edtech as it’s commonly dubbed. Neither does the sector show any sign of slowing down.

Curriculums change through the years, and with them the means of presenting their educational content to school pupils. We’ve already seen chalkboards exchanged for interactive whiteboards and projectors, and textbooks largely swapped out for laptops and computers. We’re all familiar with these developments, but ground-breaking progress continues to be made.

On October 16th, 2018, the BBC published a report on a parliamentary meeting that served as a landmark event for technology in education. Based at Middlesex University, a robot named Pepper sat down with MP’s to discuss the impact that robotics and artificial intelligence have had on education, and how things could move forward in the future. While all the questions and answers were predetermined, the main thrust of the conversation with Pepper was to encourage a blend of technology and human oversight, rather than replacing one with the other.

This merger focuses on viewing technology as something that is of service to teachers and pupils rather than something to be subservient to. An LSE study has already proven that banning smartphones in schools significantly improved results, but the question worth asking is; can technology be repurposed for education’s sake?

Though robotics and AI are being introduced to the learning environment, for now they largely handle the more administrative tasks in the schooling arena. For example, they’ll record test results or manage student data. That said, the robot Pepper facilitated duties in front line learning too, such as aiding special needs children with their numeracy development. Clearly, this edtech is all of enormous help to teachers, who have been notoriously overworked for years, resigning and even falling ill from the stress of their exploited roles.

An App called Kahoot! has also made waves amongst school pupils both in the UK and the US. It allows teachers to create their own digital games that their pupils can access through the app, enhancing their learning through a fun use of technology. The app had a recorded 50 million monthly users in June 2017, which shows just how quickly edtech can gain traction in popularity. Under teacher supervision, apps enable the learning experience to become exciting and interactive in a way that textbooks, unfortunately, can’t be.

To some degree, edtech allows children to have a more prominent hand in their education. It gives them greater agency in terms of not only what they learn, but how they learn it. Technology is something that young people are very familiar with, and that same familiarity can spur their engagement in the classroom. Edtech use means that learning becomes a less passive experience; pupils can now get involved using their screens, instead of listening to teachers monologue in ways they can’t fully comprehend.

Research conducted in 2014 questioned if school pupils absorb information better when they’re taught under specific learning styles and techniques. In 2019, perhaps surprisingly, this topic of which method is best remains a hotbed for contention and controversy.

It’s well known that pupils can excel in certain subjects and may struggle to master others, and of course there’s no shame in finding anything difficult. It has rightly remained the principle of education in good schools to nurture a child’s desire to learn, rather than to relentlessly push them into acquiring top-end grades to the detriment of their wellbeing. Learning is an organic and diverse process and it suffers when enforced under superficial measures.

This said, an array of questions come into play here; can pupils decipher the information they need from blocks of text, or are more practical study methods their forte? Will they improve from class group work, or can they thrive using an online course at home? Do they need images to tackle a subject, or a teacher issuing instructions at every step?

The VAK (Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic) learning model aims to address these queries. A brief summary of each mode is as follows:

  • Visual: Learners who prefer to work with graphs, charts, videos, images or written text.
  • Auditory: Pupils who may instead favour group brainstorming, vocal instructions, reading aloud, and maintaining a dialogue with their tutors and peers to problem solve.
  • Kinesthetic: The mode of learning in which pupils prefer physical activity and external stimulation in order to better understand the topic. They may work better when movement, touch, and listening to music are involved in proceedings.

Each learning method in the VAK model aims to ensure that every child has an access point into learning, breaking down the barriers that prevent them from fully understanding any given topic. A child who prefers visual means can, theoretically, stick to the books and videos while avoiding any physical or listening-based activity. But does it make sense to make the act of learning so linear?

Complications arise when it comes to taking each method and making them applicable to every subject. Can a visual learner use images to really understand playing sport in physical education? Can an auditory learner excel in a silent reading period of an English class? Will their future workplace cater to that singular method alone? When a pupil is confined to a singular way of learning, it may have the potential to create a paradoxical classroom culture and restrict the kinds of information they can absorb in the future too.
Moreover, a research paper in 2004 recorded as many as 71 different learning styles, but the scholars themselves cited that their endeavours were “extensive, opaque, contradictory and controversial” after accumulating their data. Again, this state of argument appears to have changed little to date. While some children did indeed find their studies to be worthwhile under a personally tailored regimen, others criticised the lack of diversity. Do we ignore the things we’re not good at, or do we work to hone our skills?

Children need to know that learning is undoubtedly for them. When it comes to getting started or exam revision, something like VAK is undoubtedly a plus. It’s okay to have favoured ways of doing things, but then again, school is about being flexible and engaging with a never-ending canvas of ideas. There should be a constant circulation of learning styles for children to acquaint themselves with – not only so they can play to their strengths, but also to improve on methods of learning that they’re not so well versed in as well.

Too often we are inundated with stories of successful people’s morning routines, such as getting up at 5am to practice yoga, replying to emails and ticking off half a to-do list before even starting the working day. However, while this idea of always creating a productive morning may be inspiring to some, it may not sound remotely achievable – or appealing – to you and many others.

Oxford academic Dr Paul Kelley believes that our body’s natural rhythms are not set for such early morning starts. He called for a shift in the standard 9-to-5 work pattern of employees, claiming that the natural body clock is not accustomed to it: workers end up sleep deprived, affecting performance and output levels. Dr Kelley proposes that a more efficient starting time of 10am would suit us better during our working years, leading to lower levels of exhaustion and better gene function.

Similarly, Dr Kelley believes that children should not be expected to start school until 10am either. It is an idea that has been put to the test by a groundbreaking Oxford University experiment, and its results appear to support him. Grades increased significantly and rates of illness more than halved over a two-year period, illustrating the positive impact that better sleeping hours can have on teenagers’ performance in school. According to Dr Guy Meadows, co-founder of The Sleep School, schoolchildren in Britain take sixth position as the most sleep-deprived in the world. Losing 10 hours of sleep a week is a direct result of students being forced to get up too early since the adolescent biological rhythm is ready for sleep at midnight, as Dr Kelley points out.

As these findings and beliefs demonstrate, it is absolutely fine to not follow the standard daily work pattern imposed on us by society when it comes to our own study time. Some of us naturally work better in the evenings and into the night, meaning our mornings start off a little later than those of early-risers; others prefer to sacrifice a few hours of sleep in the morning for an earlier bedtime. Part of the journey through Higher Education is finding out what study rhythm works best for us individually and utilising it accordingly. There’s no sense in starting  weekend study sessions at the crack of dawn if you know your brain won’t be buzzing with motivation until a few hours later. Likewise, if the thought of staying in the library past dinner time fills you with dread, adjust your routine to suit when your mind feels most active.

One of the things to battle with is the guilt resulting from later starts to the day, with longer hours spent in bed synonymous with attributes of laziness and lack of direction. However, as science shows, biological factors have a lot to do with how our bodies respond to traditional work patterns. It’s time for a societal change and a better understanding of our natural body rhythms.

Sources:
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/health/school-start-tim-10am-student-illness-health-academic-performance-study-a8072231.html
https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/does-getting-up-at-5am-early-make-you-more-successful-we-tried-it-a7716086.html
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/science-news/11148930/Teenagers-to-start-school-at-10am-in-Oxford-University-sleep-experiment.html
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2016/03/12/staff-should-start-work-at-10am-to-avoid-torture-of-sleep-depriv/

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