IELTS Writing Task 2 Model Essay: learning facts and skills at school and university

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Here is my answer to an IELTS Writing Task 2 essay.

The Task

Some people say that in all levels of education, from primary school to universities, too much time is spent on learning facts and not enough on learning practical skills.

Do you agree or disagree?

My Plan

The task is asking me if I agree or disagree with the statement, so this means I must write an essay stating my opinion and the reasons for my opinion

My Opinion

I totally agree that there is too much emphasis on teaching facts and not enough on developing student’s skills, but this is more of a problem in schools rather than universities. 

The Main Reason for my Opinion

  • Main Idea: there is too much emphasis on teaching knowledge, and not enough on skills
  • Explanation: there are more tests today, and these tend to emphasize facts
  • Example: my experience in school where experiments were neglected in favour of facts

But…

  • Main Idea: less of a concern though at post-16 education level
  • Explanation: university studies tend to be more theoretical, vocational colleges exist
  • Example: my local vocational college

Read my essay below. I have written a few comments about my writing in blue italics under each paragraph.

My Answer

One of they key factors in providing a rich and modern educational experience is balancing the teaching of knowledge and practical skills. Both are important aspects of a quality education, but recently people have been arguing that too much time is being spent teaching factual information at the expense of the development of hands-on skills. I certainly feel that this is the case during compulsory education up to the age of 16, although it’s less of an issue when it comes to university.

My first sentence is a general statement related to the issue. The second sentence paraphrases the task: I’ve changed “learning facts” to “teaching factual information” and “learning practical skills” to “the development of hands-on skills”. In the third sentence I stated my opinion.

The main reason for my view is that skills, which are an essential part of education, tend to be neglected when the learning of factual knowledge is over-emphasised. This has become a problem in the era of standardised testing, especially in the area of pre-16 compulsory education, where many governments around the world have started to introduce more examinations as a way of measuring student progress. Tests, by their very nature, tend to ask questions about facts, and this has led to a reduction in emphasis on skills. For example, I used to teach in a school where hands-on scientific experiments were neglected in favour of learning scientific facts from textbooks, something which was entirely due to the importance placed on science examinations.

In the first sentence I clearly and succinctly stated my main reason for my opinion. I also includes a relative clause (“which are an essential part of education”). In the second and third sentences I have explianed this reason in more detail. In the fourth sentence I supported my reason with an example from my personal experience as a teacher. I also included another relative clause (“where hands-on experiments were neglected”) and this clause also includes a passive verb.

However, I feel that the problem of balancing skills and knowledge teaching at the post-16 level is less of a concern. Many university courses, by their very nature, tend to emphasise theoretical, rather than practical, knowledge, and there are plenty of vocational courses available in less academic higher education institutions. For example, there is a local college in my town which has a curriculum rich in practical skills development, with courses available in everything from photography to bricklaying.

In the first sentence I clearly state my opinion that this isn’t such a big problem in tertiary education. In the second sentence I explain my thinking in more detail and in the third sentence I give a specific example to support my reasoning. I’ve also included some precise vocabulary, e.g. “theoretical knowledge”, “vocational courses” and “bricklaying”.

The increasing emphasis on teaching factual information over skills-based approaches is certainly a problem in our schools. The huge pressure on teachers to secure good exam results means practical lessons and experiments are being dropped, and children’s backpacks are being increasingly weighed down by textbooks. If we are to provide our young people with skills suited for the 21st century, we will need to address this imbalance.

In my conclusion, I restate my opinion and relate it to some of the ideas previously mentioned, such as “practical lessons and experiments are being dropped”. The phrase “are being dropped” uses a continuous passive form, which is a nice grammatical structure to use. In the final sentence, I have used a conditional structure. 

(351 words)

The word count is well above the 250 word minimum. It might be too much to write in 40 minutes, of course, but it shows that I have expanded my ideas fully. 

Posted in IELTS Writing, IELTS Writing Model Essays and tagged , , , , , .

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