Posted on 5th June 2012
You could argue that we are becoming an increasingly silent country, spending so much time watching television, emailing and texting. However, speaking is of course still absolutely vital and necessary, and shadow education secretary, Stephen Twigg is keen to really encourage public speaking, particularly in state schools.
Public speaking and debating are fantastic at helping you to improve your communication skills and encourage you to construct sophisticated and persuasive arguments. These skills can then be channelled back into your writing work and should improve the quality of your essays.
Twigg is concerned though that not enough emphasis is placed on public speaking in state schools. Currently interview technique and public speaking is not on the national curriculum, however these are areas that many private schools really focus on. This imbalance means that many state-educated pupils end up at a disadvantage in university and job interviews because they aren’t all as experienced in verbal communication as some of their peers.
It is no secret that many of the UK’s politicians are privately educated, and this is perhaps not surprising, given the emphasis placed on debating in many fee-paying schools. Lots of keen young debaters enter the world of politics, but there’s no reason why this imbalance between those who went to state schools and those who went to fee-paying schools should continue.
Mr Twigg recently spoke at a school in London about his thoughts on the subject of public speaking and the imbalance between private and state schools: “Spoken skills have not had enough of a focus within state schools but it is clear this needs to change. We know that many private schools focus on debating and on interview coaching, helping their students get another leg up toward the best universities and jobs. Labour wants all pupils to have the same opportunities to develop their verbal communication and presentation skills. This is about modernising our schools system to improve life chances.”
The shadow education secretary’s opinions are backed up by Kata Hall’s (who works for the Confederation of British Industry) comments, reported by the BBC: “Employers need staff to be able to, with confidence, articulate information in a clear and coherent way, to extract key details from conversations and to be ready to present a case to peers and colleague…Leaving compulsory education without adequate spoken and communication skills is a serious blight on young people’s lives and a major handicap when they’re looking for work.”
Promisingly, plans are being drawn up by the government to introduce more public speaking lessons into the curriculum. We’ll all have to keep our fingers crossed that the changes will go ahead and that from 2014 there will be a greater emphasis on speaking in all schools.