Thursday, 17 May 2012

Oxford University and home education

My daughter has now been at Oxford University for eight months or so; long enough for me to make a few tentative observations on the matter. The first thing I have noticed is that the tutorial system used at Oxford suits home educated young people very well. At most universities, large groups of students attend lectures in what is essentially another version of the classroom teaching which most of them experienced at school. At Oxford, on the other hand, one professor meets with a few students in a normal room to discuss the subject under consideration. Some of these meetings are one to one.

This method of education is very similar to the conversational teaching which most home educating parents use routinely with their children. The child expresses a view and the parent responds. Instead of one person being a teacher and the other a pupil, it is a cooperative process. This was certainly the way that things were done when my daughter was being educated at home and it worked brilliantly. The Oxford system is simply a natural extension of this.

One thing that my daughter has remarked upon is that many of the students seem to have the same attitudes as those at school. She herself chose to read Philosophy, Politics and Economics because she had always been fascinated by philosophy and, to a lesser extent, by politics and economics. This does not at all seem to be the case with many of the other students. They have evidently chosen to do PPE not because they are interested in philosophy, but rather because this subject is likely to help them get on in the future. When my daughter attempts to discuss some aspect of politics, she has been told on more than one occasion, ‘Oh, don’t talk about work; we want to have fun.’ This struck her, and me, as quite extraordinary. These are young people who still think in school terms of being made to learn things that they don’t want to so that they can get the right qualification.


  1. I think my love of learning, so enfeebled by years of being bored at school was finally snuffed out at University.

    In the first year of my degree (at a well regarded, Russell Group university) I started to question a theory in a tutorial of 10 or so students. None of the others said anything - no discussion, no debate. Then the lecturer of all people said that my theory was invalid because it was at odds with the theory in the book.

  2. Your daughter is unique in her in-depth interest in her chosen course. Young people generally dont seem passionate about their education, even if they select a course of interest. More often then not, education is seen as a means to an end rather than an opportunity to gain insight and knowledge.Such a shame.