In July 2014, high school students in the UK launched an iPhone to the edge of space, tracked and recovered it and posted a video of its journey (see below). When Yousuf Alimohamed (studying at Kings College London) found out, he had this to say:
What was I doing as an A-level science student in Mauritius? What are you doing as an A-level science student in Mauritius? Our teachers tell us to stick to the syllabus and to memorise answers through rote learning. ‘This is education’, they would have us believe. They encourage us to sink hundreds of hours to turn our A into an A* through rote memorisation, because apparently an A* will make you while an A will ruin your future.
Well I have news for you. In the home country of the A-level itself, they do more than just stick to their own paper syllabi. Looking at this video, I’d have been happier and (I believe) better educated had I come out of the system with a B, but had had the chance to engage in such activity.
I went to a college regarded as good but in retrospect, I still find the education I received there lacking, and I do not doubt it is just as bad elsewhere in other state schools as well, national or not. I can recite the fucking physics book for you by heart, but I wouldn’t know where to start if I wanted to send an iPhone to space, or do anything even remotely practical and interesting. That, to me, is not proper education. And the British agree.
The ministry thumps its chest about providing us with a holistic education, yet the teachers and principals say it is not ministry policy to engage in practical education like so. Someone, somewhere is fucking up, and I think it’s the civil servants at the top. I don’t think all my teachers were, by a stroke of misfortune, all uninspired or lazy. No. They’re good men and women, at least most of them are. But they’re chained. Muzzled. They are not expected to do more than hammer written answers in our heads, and are not rewarded if they do go above and beyond the (very low) call of duty. In fact, they’re probably discouraged from doing more for their students.
When will it be time for a true educational reform? It should be a priority. If you fix education, if you nurture creative, critical and curious minds, then in the space of a generation you will have a citizenry that is just so: creative, critical and entrepreneurial. It will fix politics. If politicians no longer need to pander to the narrow-minded and brainless partisan-no-matter-what (because education ‘fixed’ them), then the politicians themselves will be better to appeal to the better citizenry.
Politics is brought up a notch, and everything else by rebound. The economy is brought up a notch with new entrepreneurs and adventurous people with ideas. Health is brought up a notch; holistic education with its sports, balanced diets and better awareness makes healthier citizens. Culture is brought up a notch, with creative people encouraged rather than being put down because they’re not great academically only. Law and order is brought up a notch; the citizenry having been educated to be more considerate towards society.
Give me one ministry. ONE. Not ten. Not fifteen. Not prime-ministership. No. ONE ministry and I’ll do more to help fix this country in twenty years than all the other ministers and ministries could do put together in a hundred years. Education is the ultimate domino effect, and if we continue fucking up in that respect, we’ll still feel the sting half a century from now.
Original reporting by Sky News:
The science project took teenagers from Giles Academy in Boston, Lincolnshire, two years to plan and fundraise for. On the shopping list for their spacecraft was a large balloon, a GPS tracker, a flight computer able to track altitude and an iPhone which filmed the whole flight. Despite the planning and preparation, the flight did not quite go to plan at first.
Science teacher Andrew Castley said: “We had loads of pupils from school lined up to witness the big launch but the balloon hit a tree. By the time we got it down and relaunched it was home time so most of the children had left. It wasn’t until the morning that I showed them the incredible footage and they were blown away.”
Students managed to capture more than two-and-a-half hours of footage including the curvature of the earth and the deep black of space. The phone reached 18 miles (29km) above the surface of Earth before the thinning atmosphere caused the balloon to burst. The equipment then floated down safely with a parachute. Mr Castley and his team found it using a GPS tracker some 40 miles away in Norfolk.
The teacher said: “I always do these crazy projects, I did one running on custard once. This has been phenomenal though and next I want to do live streaming and go even higher.”
Here are the highlights of the flight:
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