Isn’t it better for kids to be learning how to fit exhaust pipes and change tyres instead of playing truant and hanging around town? This is the idea behind one scheme in the UK – called the “Cool Project” – designed to get kids who play truant or who have been expelled back into learning. The 14-to-16-year-olds are exempt from the demands of the national curriculum and are offered instead a range of more practical training opportunities outside school for three days a week (the other two days being spent doing traditional lessons back at school). Pupils can learn how to become car mechanics, plumbers, bricklayers or house painters, for instance. Philip Stroud, 15, one of the pupils on the new scheme confesses: “I didn’t like school. Teachers’d just give you long lectures about something boring or they’d pick on you.” He appreciates the different approach taken by the instructors. “I never used to listen to my teachers. They got on my nerves and I got on theirs. But here I listen because the stuff we do is interesting.” Philip has begun to learn how to fit tyres and exhausts, and hopes to get a vocational qualification. “It means that I can get a job when I’m older, instead of doing exams and stuff.” Those who run the project acknowledge that teenagers who don’t have a talent for or any interest in academic subjects often have problems at secondary school because they are turned off by the traditional diet of maths, physics and foreign languages. “An academic education may be appropriate for the vast majority of youngsters, but we have to accept that work-related learning can reap benefits for the rest.” Explaining their approach, one of the project leaders said, “Our first priority is to boost their self-esteem, and then we have to get them to realize how rewarding it can be to learn a new skill.”
1. In your own words, what is the aim of the “Cool Project”?
2. Why didn’t Philip like the teachers at school?
3. What is his immediate ambition now?
4. What is implied in the last paragraph about the effect that their previous schools had had on the way these teenagers felt about themselves?
1. You have probably heard the phrase “You really turn me on” in songs (used when boys or girls are talking about how sexy someone else is). In the passage we read about boys being turned off. What do you think that means here?
2. Match the words from the text with the following definitions:
a. to repeatedly make fun of someone, or blame them
b. to send a pupil away from school
c. to spend time somewhere without having anything in particular to do
d. to increase significantly
e. to not have the obligation to do something
f. to irritate, annoy
g. a builder
h. the pipe under a car carrying fumes away from the engine
i. someone who installs the pipes and the rest of the system for a building’s water supply
j. professional, directly related to work
Note: The adjective “vocational” can be used in reference to any kind of work-related activity, but the noun “vocation” has a more specific use. You will see it contains a reference to the word “voice”. We use it to refer to professions that people feel called upon to do. Some people would say that medicine is their vocation if they feel inspired to save people’s lives. Others feel that being a missionary is their vocation since they feel called upon to save the souls of unbelievers.
Over to you
1. If you were the minister for education in your country’s government would you agree to implement a scheme like this? If so, should it be a scheme any pupil can choose to join, or should it only be for pupils who are identified by adults in authority as having a particular problem in mainstream schools?
2. Literally “reap” means “to harvest”, i.e. to collect in the fruit and the vegetables on the farm when they are ripe. Some people may also be familiar with the figure of the grim reaper – a representation of death in a black cloak carrying a scythe (which is normally used to cut things like wheat). What do you think it means if you reap the benefits of something?