We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Education, education, education

We have had over thirty years of comprehensives and eight years of Blair’s “education, education, education”. The result? According to The Guardian:

New research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and conducted by Michael Shayer, professor of applied psychology at King’s College, University of London, concludes that 11- and 12-year-old children in year 7 are “now on average between two and three years behind where they were 15 years ago”, in terms of cognitive and conceptual development.

“It’s a staggering result,” admits Shayer, whose findings will be published next year in the British Journal of Educational Psychology. “Before the project started, I rather expected to find that children had improved developmentally. This would have been in line with the Flynn effect on intelligence tests, which shows that children’s IQ levels improve at such a steady rate that the norm of 100 has to be recalibrated every 15 years or so. But the figures just don’t lie. We had a sample of over 10,000 children and the results have been checked, rechecked and peer reviewed.”

Astonishing.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on TumblrShare on RedditShare on Google+Share on VKEmail this to someone

57 comments to Education, education, education

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Well, as some regulars will know, I have been writing about this issue for months and I will not lightly forget how one commenter, who claims to be a personnel manager at a large firm, claimed to be “bowled over” at the quality of the primary school education his children received, and compared it favourably with his own education. It was if he was channelling a Blairite press release.

    Of course, there may be patches of excellence amid the dross and many of the youngsters coming through the graduate trainee system where I work are smart, motivatated and literate. But the evidence keeps mounting up that schooling for many kids is getting worse.

    People may have solutions to all this but one point I’d suggest is a wholesale return to phonics, study of grammar and reading comprehension.

  • pommygranate

    Utterly depressing.

    Although I have two young children at school, i am not a teacher and can’t offer an explanation. It would be interesting to hear from teachers who read this site if they a) agree with this and b) have any suggestions as to why this has happened.

  • pommygranate

    Johnathan

    The change i have noticed in the new graduates we hire is less in their academic ability but more in their reluctance to work hard.

    Our interviewing guidelines now stress how we prefer those seeking a work-life balance, rather than the “lunch is for wimps” types. All fine and dandy in a perfect world, but not great when we are competing with companies from places such as China, India and Singapore.

  • Peter Reed

    The original post and some of the comments imply that schools are to blame for the decline in children’s developmental skills.

    However, in the Guardian article, the guy who conducted the research seems less convinced.

    “We can speculate, but there’s no hard evidence. I would suggest that the most likely reasons are the lack of experiential play in primary schools, and the growth of a video-game, TV culture. Both take away the kind of hands-on play that allows kids to experience how the world works in practice and to make informed judgments about abstract concepts.”

  • How is it that whenever the Left launch yet another attack on “dumb Britain” that they conveniently forget it was their education policy that created the problem?

  • Pete

    Jonathan, for heaven’s sake.

    I did not claim to be a “personnel manager”, I simply do quite a bit of interviewing and I have not seen any decline in literacy of graduates, which doesn’t mean a lot.
    I am happy to re-iterate am very pleased with the education provided to my children (one of whom has special needs but all are pretty able) in a state Catholic school, and I fail to see why you find that so astonishing.
    My main point is that many of the initiatives that have been fiercely resisted by teaching unions and the media, specifically national curricula and league tables, have clearly resulted in education that is far more consistent than the hopelessly variable education that I received at a number of junior schools in the 70s.

    As for these findings, I suspect it’s quite true that children now are behind at specific ages – my education seemed devoted to getting me to university level by the age of 15 and then allowing me to doss around for most of the following five years. But so what?

  • guy herbert

    Well, given that the sample children were being tested at 11 and 12, it isn’t comprehensive education directly. Something else is going on. I would very much like to know if there were demogrphic differences in this decline. If ‘on average’ conceals a bigger drop for the lower classes, or differences in movement between other cultural groups, with some stable, then we ought to know.

    Since the developmental psychology model being used is supposed not to depend on formal education, then the preparation or otherwise of these kids for the national tortoise curriculum is hard to blame. I recall somewhat more than 30 years ago a smart science teacher using Piaget tests on his new nominal top set intake of 11 year olds–with, to me, even then, somewhat alarming results. And we had a vestigial 11+ in the West Riding.

    My hypothesis is that people don’t develop capacities that are not necessary to them, and that the development of abstract thought in an infantilised world – of reasoning itself in a culture that gives it no relative advantage over unreason – is in effect a waste of resources.

  • GCooper

    I, too, remember the idiotic response from the self-styled ‘personnel manager’ to Mr Pearce’s earlier post – and I believe I was engaged in some of that debate.

    Anyone who has not a vested interest in the education (sic) racket – and especially anyone who comes into contact with young people – knows that our fundamental educational standards have plummeted in recent decades.

    Leftist teachers, educational theoreticians and politicians carry on claiming greater numbers get better exam results and that more receive “higher” education, but the empirical evidence is all around us – we now have one generation, many of whom are functionally illiterate and innumerate, and we are on the way to our second.

  • GCooper

    In reponse to Pete’s post (which apeared while I was writing mine) I withdraw my use of “self-styled”.

    Not, however, “idiotic”. Anyone who has not noticed a decline in the literacy of recent graduates must either be asleep, or using a very curious yardstick.

  • strang

    i blame the parents

  • guy herbert

    I think we can probably count three generations already, GCooper, though it depends where in the country you are how long ago elementary education was extirpated from state education. The ravages of ILEA mean the poorer bits of central London may well be working on the fourth post-literate generation, given that somone who was 12 in 1965 could easily be a great-grand-parent now.

  • GCooper

    guy herbert writes:

    ” I would very much like to know if there were demogrphic differences in this decline. If ‘on average’ conceals a bigger drop for the lower classes, or differences in movement between other cultural groups, with some stable, then we ought to know.”

    It seems inevitable that if the tests were carried out in urban schools, the presence of high levels of immigrants must have had an influence. That said, it is inconceivable that a psychologist would not have taken this, and other factors, into account.

    But surely we have no need to look for a complex or fiendishly subtle cause? The simple decline in reading and writing alone will account for a significant drop in reasoning skills. And after that, the rest simply follows.

  • guy herbert

    I suppose we have to wait till the work is published “next year” (why so long?) in the British Journal of Educational Psychology according to the Guardian. It is hard to draw any conclusions, other than note the firm and satisfying contradiction of “rising standards”, until then.

  • Pete

    So I’m “idiotic” because I haven’t seen a decline in (admittedly mainly Oxbridge) graduate literacy? You’re not exactly selling me on the quality of your own education there.

    It would be nice to debate this without being rudely dismissed as a Nu Labour idiot (the improvements I mention were Tory initiatives after all), but I’ve tried and failed, so I must leave you to your fond reminiscences of the good old days of O levels and your meaningless rants.

  • GCooper

    Pete writes:

    “So I’m “idiotic” because I haven’t seen a decline in (admittedly mainly Oxbridge) graduate literacy?”

    Pretty much so, yes. Either that or setting subterraneously low standards.

    ” You’re not exactly selling me on the quality of your own education there.”

    Probably not a debate you’d be advised to get into.

    Still, it’s always good to see that the old maxims (none so blind, springs to mind) still hold true.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Pete, well, I thought you were in HR, or some senior management role, which is what struck me at the time. Sorry if you think I am picking on you. Nothing personal.

    In any event your own reflections on your children’s eduction seem to be crumbling in the face of evidence from a variety of places, both cited by myself and others like Alex today. Anyone trying to claim that education standards have improved markedly since the age of O-Levels has a lot of pursuading to do.

    This should not be a partisan political issue, since I would have thought that people, be they socialist/libertarian/conservative would want to see standards at the highest level. That is not what we have now.

  • Johnathan

    And of course I should remember how to spell persuading properly! Aaarrgh.

  • GCooper

    guy herbert writes:

    “I think we can probably count three generations already…”

    Don’t, please! I still like to cling to the illusion that a generation is 30 years.

    Though, of course, you’re quite right.

  • J

    My experience is that the biggest factor is the attitude of parents. It used to be that when a teacher complained to a parent that homework wasn’t being done the parent would smack the child. Now the parent smacks the teacher.

  • Verity

    It’s OK, GCooper. A generation is definitely 30 years.

  • Jacob

    My experience is that the biggest factor is the attitude of parents. It used to be that when a teacher complained to a parent that homework wasn’t being done the parent would smack the child. Now the parent smacks the teacher.

    How true!
    Moreover – smacking is strictly forbidden. You could go to jail for smacking your children. (Maybe that’s why the smack the teachers instead). Children don’t have any respect for parents or teachers, and teaching is often impossible because of wild children. It is also strictly forbidden to expulse children, so there is absolutely no way to separate those who want to learn from those who disturb.
    The whole thing is a hopeless mess. The results aren’t surprising. It’s all thanks to progressive educational philosophy.

  • Ron

    I think a major factor may be the gradual acceptance of single parenting as a valid and state-assisted option instead of a bad (or sad in the case of parental death) one.

    I was doing well academically (I got a grade A Maths O-level at age 14) until my father died when I was 15.

    From that point onwards – whilst never getting into drugs or criminality – I descended into a kind of mild psychological delinquency where I only did the absolute minimum of schoolwork, and only scored Bs and Cs in the rest of my O-levels when I should have easily got As and Bs.

    My mother just wasn’t physically strong or mentally forceful enough to contain me and ensure I followed the right path.

    Likewise at A-level and (to some extent my degree) – since I bought an old car as soon as I could drive and probably spent more time fixing it than studying. I could have bought that car 100 times over with the extra money I could have earnt in my early 20s with the A-levels and better degree course I could have secured if I’d been kept on track until I was 18 by a strong father.

    I’d bet that the bulk of the reduction comes from single-parented children, particularly single-parented boys.

  • John Rippengal

    Expulse???

  • Verity

    John Rippengal – Jacob’s from Israel. He’s writing in his second language.

  • Matt O'Halloran

    We need to denationalise schools. We led the world into the agricultural and industrial revolutions and achieved majority literacy long before the State obtained a near-monopoly of education in the last quarter of the 19C. From then on we declined relative to other nations.

    There may be a role for the government as referee– setting exams, inspecting to ensure minimum standards– but those functions are in conflict with those of provision. The ref does not double as striker. Everything else should be done by combines of parents (e.g. home schooling in small groups), private enterprise (‘public schools’), and charitable and municipal enterprise (the origin of ‘grammar schools’) with vouchers and tax relief to encourage the poor to shop around. Bright working class children need more and better escape hatches.

    Like postal services, police and prisons, utilities and transport, State monopoly in schooling has bred a pedagogic establishment which can sit on its privileges and stifle innovation with little accountability. At least blair is shooting for a little more of a mixed economy. The monolithic tyranny of the neighbourhood comprehensive must be undermined.

  • pommygranate

    Ron

    From my own experiences, i would agree wholeheatedly with you that the absence of a male role model in the family is the largest contributing factor to the rise in anti-social behaviour.

    A wealth of evidence now supports this view.

    It is criminal that this government actively incentivises people to live apart.

    Other contributing factors are the lack of male teachers in inner city schools, the decline in real wages of teachers (leading to lower quality) and their lack of power to discipline difficult children.

  • Julian Taylor

    There may be a role for the government as referee– setting exams, inspecting to ensure minimum standards …

    That used to be the prerogative of the universities in the UK. For a very long time we had a unified standard in the General Certificate of Education, through the Oxford and Cambridge Examination Board and other universities that (almost) perfectly reflected the education standard required both for university entrants and for career qualifications – remember when just about any job had as its requirement ‘5 GCE O Levels including Maths and English Language’?

    Obviously the successive governments over the years thought better, and just look where we are now …

  • Matt O'Halloran

    Trouble is, Julian, competition between exam boards led to dumbing down in curricula. Schools chose the pushover boards so they could get their pass rates up. Although the bad ones became known to universities and employers, Gresham’s Law worked for them.

    I would prefer a single, autonomous quango with governors who were very hard to sack and a statutory remit to enforce the highest standards. More like the French ‘bac’ which is a synchronised national sweat for the kids. But *how* they learn what they need to get through should be entirely up to heads and school governors.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Matt, if schooling was opened up to parental choice, then schools, in order to attract the smartest kids and get future business, actually boast of choosing to have examinations run by the toughest exam boards, rather than the weakest. Instead of dumbing down, you would have a race to the top.

  • Verity

    I like that comment, Johnathan. Well said!

  • RAB

    I tend to agree with Matt’s various posts.
    However the basic problem with education in GB, for the last 30 years or so, is the educational establishment itself.
    My wife is a qualified teacher who has never held a teaching post. She graduated in the early 70’s when there were loads of graduates but no jobs, so she went and did something else entirely.
    I used to stay overnight at her college (tsk against the rules, but as long as us males were out before the bedders came round at 9.30am it was cool).
    In late night conversations with her fellow hall dwellers, I quickly discovered that about 80% of them were incompetent to teach their chosen subjects.
    Worse than that, the pupil teachers were not taught how to teach, keep order or inspire their future charges in any way.
    This has going on for more than a generation G my friend! What should we do now?
    Well, let’s close the Training colleges for a start. They are the fundaments of stupid theory that doesn’t and hasn’t worked.
    Education is a practical, not a theoretical thing. You either have one or you dont. You either know stuff or you dont.
    I’m sorry to go back to this, but Chantelle in Big Brother, is a typical example of how far we have sunk.
    When George Gallway was evicted last night she made the comment– “What was the name of Georges BAND again, respect was it? well he should put DIS in front of it, cos he’s a vile two faced little man!”
    Right in every respect except for somehow having suffered 21 days of the prat thought he was in a band rather than a spit, radical left Politician!
    So much for reaching out to the younger generation!

  • Verity

    RAB – That’s hysterical! She thought George Galloway was in a band! Oh, god, you couldn’t make it up. I wonder whether she can read and write, even marginally.

  • Johnathan

    Verity, thankee. It is also a catchphrase I would use about globalisation.

  • Millie Woods

    As a recovering academic part of whose job entailed teaching language teachers I can say that many of the teachers themselves are sadly not up to the task.
    In a course I taught called contrastive grammar – a catchy description for a course laying out how the grammar of the language to be taught differed from the language of those being taught – I was advised by the class that I was rabbiting on about things like parts of speech and verb tenses and they didn’t know what I was going on about. They were clueless about grammar and yet they were supposed to be teaching the grammar of a second language – duh!
    I think this is the case with a lot of subject matter. Just imagine the situation if you were taking driving instruction from someone who couldn’t drive. That’s the situation in many cases in the education system. That and the fact that people with knowledge deficits in the basics are quite happy to jump on any wacko theory of education that comes along. The result is a contentless education system that’s full of emperor’s new clothes theories.

  • Verity

    They didn’t know parts of speech and tenses and they were going to teach a foreign language? How could that be? Did they speak this foreign language? This is mind-boggling.

  • Fred

    Millie – Even back in 1973 California (when I was 16), my French teacher used to rant about how he would go to staff meetings and tell the English teachers that they owed him part of their pay, since he found it necessary to teach us English grammar before he could teach us French grammar. (Fascinating guy, BTW – a polylingual Czech refugee, and probably the most demanding teacher at the school.)

  • veryretired

    There is no substitute for family attitude toward education. If education is paramount, and serious effort is demanded of a child, and success expected, and rewarded, above all else, that child will do as well as their gifts allow.

    My mother sent me to private schools at a time when, as a single parent, her income was only a few hundred dollars a month, and tuition took a fourth to a third of it, even with a scholarship. The idea that I could fail a class without concern, or even get a low grade, was as outlandish as jumping off the roof and flapping my arms to fly.

    My own children have had their ups and downs at school, as all kids do. They have all attended either private or charter schools, and one of our first questions was, “How rigorous is the curriculum?”.

    I don’t know how other people approach this whole question. As for my wife and myself, nothing else has so occupied our thoughts and worries as the educational opportunities our children might have.

    My college age son is graduating this next spring with a teaching degree, and plans to teach American history and English, as well as coach hockey and soccer, at the high school level.

    While we disagree about some things, as is to be expected, I find him to be an admirable person, who has put himself through school by working and earning scholarships.

    It is well and good to talk about educational policies and other big questions, but the final result depends more on what happens around the dinner table than what educational theories are in vogue this year.

  • K

    “It’s a staggering result,”
    Yeh! Sure! Who would have guessed?

    I have to agree with RAB, the problem is in the educational establishment.

    For decades the government has increasingly measured, probed, raised funding, and tinkered with education. And in general they have followed the advice of the professional educators.

    So exactly why should any statistic, pleasing or otherwise, be “staggering”. This has been said in various forms for twenty years about public schools.

    This professor did another study, I presume it was well done. Good for him. The slumber will continue.

    Pretty much the same story in the US. Anything that really upsets educators can’t actually be true. But, if it is true, then educators are blameless, and can fix it with more resources and new ideas.

  • Kim du Toit

    “It seems inevitable that if the tests were carried out in urban schools, the presence of high levels of immigrants must have had an influence.”

    Depressingly, if immigrant children are counted in most studies of this kind, their net effect is to RAISE the average score, not lower it.

  • The Wobbly Guy

    A colleague of mine had a nephew who was a perennial failure in the Singapore education system. Did so badly that his parents, desperate that he get some form of accreditation, sent him to the UK for his A levels.

    He scored straight As after a year there.

    My colleague, was, quite frankly, shocked. She’s an excellent maths teacher, at both the basic ‘A’ and ‘S’ paper levels, and even she admitted she was tempted to pull her hair out when tutoring her nephew. Disbelieving of his amazing results, she asked for his exam paper.

    Turns out the British ‘A’ levels are just a tinny bit more difficult than our ‘O’ levels. She said our Sec 3(age: 15) students could pass that exam.

    IIRC, she also said her nephew went to a school in Glasgow.

    TWG

  • The Wobbly Guy

    As a teacher myself, the rules for us have changed. We’re no longer allowed to physically touch students, but at the level I’m teaching(A levels), that’s hardly a drawback.

    It’s at the primary level that the lack of effective disciplinary measures is most evident. It doesn’t help that parents are over-protective of their children nowadays, as previously said.

    All the work of progressive education policies and liberal(leftist thought). And who says the left would prefer higher education standards? If everybody was just that bit smarter, they would see through the pack of lies they have promulgated through the ages in an instant.

    No, the left wants the people fat, dumb, and happy so that they can be ruled with ease.

    TWG

  • The Wobbly Guy

    Millie Woods-Tell me about it. The Singapore education system shifted to the communicative approach twenty years ago, expressly instructing english teachers at the primary, secondary, and junior college levels to AVOID grammatical terms completely!

    Taught in that system, I stumbled along, and I was somehow one of the lucky ones who managed to gain some proficiency in the language even without knowing what a verb was. It was only when I got into university and went for my 2nd major in english(my main major was still chemistry honors) that I learnt all the technicalities of English.

    After I graduated, I went to the teaching college to get my diploma in teaching. English was only my second teaching subject, but I was just about one of the very few who understood what the instructor was talking about when she went on about tenses, case agreement, and clauses. The other teachers, products of the communicative approach, didn’t have a clue about what was going on. And they could be teaching english.

    The Ministry of Education, we were told, is shifting back to the grammar system, except they gave it a fancy name and called it the ‘skills’ approach. Blah.

    The new teachers going in to teach at the primary, secondary, and tertiary levels are mostly students who learnt the language without learning grammar, and are still mostly clueless about teaching grammar because they don’t even know what it is. The exceptions were those who took english or e.lit at the university, and we are terribly few in number(and I’m teaching chemistry anyway).

    The old teachers who were trained in the old methods could shift back to grammar, but many of them are also going to retire soon. The primary school teachers, who are going to lay the foundations for learning for the children, are mostly learning as they go along, and many of them are simply not adequate to the task of teaching the english language and grammar.

    One word sums it up: SHIT.

    TWG

  • Verity

    Kim du Toit – your comment is only true for the United States. In Britain and Europe they drag the figures down. Possibly because the reasons for immigration were very different. By and large, people immigrate to the United states to get a chance to achieve.

    The people who immigrate to Great Britain get a chance to marry a first cousin.

    The people who immigrate to France get a chance to burn 400,000 cars in one year.

  • dearieme

    Get a grip, folks. The first thing to be done by anyone who has ever been told that his views on Education are right-wing, is to shout out ROBERT CONQUEST’S immortal “I TOLD YOU SO, YOU FUCKING FOOLS”.

  • mike

    Hah!!

    I have met English teachers here in Taiwan – usually from Canada – who can’t spell, don’t know what the term ‘present perfect progressive tense’ is, and make all kinds of basic errors, the worst of which was an advertisement (in a coffee shop) by a female, Canadian english teacher offering her services on a private basis. Her mistake was to write “tutors wanted” instead of “students wanted”. Quite aside from being incredibly stupid, that also happens to be brilliantly ironic!!

    So in the dim hope that she may be performing some kind of sociology test to see if anyone notices, I took her number and sent her a text message explaining her mistake. She replied, asking who she had to thank, so I simply texted back ‘concerned anonymous’.

    Fucking fools indeed.

  • Hereward

    I work in a school (non teaching). I believe the problems are that children are not taught to think, but to pass exams. They lack curiosity, the education they receive is delivered in a Stalinist mode from Whitehall. In English authors are chosen for their ethnicity not their ability.
    I was taught to read by my mother at the age of four, and I have not stopped learning. Children are not asked to question anything or make a judgement about anything, that would be judgemental!

  • guy herbert

    TWG – Turns out the British ‘A’ levels are just a tinny bit more difficult than our ‘O’ levels. She said our Sec 3(age: 15) students could pass that exam.

    You might be interested that the O-levels still taught and tested in Singapore, the Carribean, and other former colonial possessions are the same exams, to the same standards – often from the same competing examination boards GCooper, Julian Taylor and I were going on about – that we had in Britain, once. Until, that is, they were abolished by government fiat in the early 80s (under the Thatcher administration) for something more ‘inclusive’. In the mid-70s we were merrily tested on past papers going back to 1960 without a culture shock.

    The reason competitive boards stopped working in Britain and started producing dumbing-down, was that government action transformed their market. The products were standardised and manipulated by regulation. And the consumers were too. From ‘good schools’ being concerned with their reputations, and employers and universities being the consumers of the students whose abilities were validated by exams of known value, Whithall officials became the key consumers. The school league-tables and bureaucratic targets became the purpose of exams: pass-rate, not callibration, was now the object of the exercise.

  • ADE

    GCooper writes:

    “It seems inevitable that if the tests were carried out in urban schools, the presence of high levels of immigrants must have had an influence. That said, it is inconceivable that a psychologist would not have taken this, and other factors, into account.”

    But isn’t psychology a social “science”? To it, nothing is inconceivable because nothing has to be tested.

    ADE

  • aristeides

    Firstly, I would be interested to know the stats for private school children only. Unfortunately, I think they would also show a level of decline, though whether the same as the global average I do not know.

    Without wishing to sound like a personnel manager, when I worked for an American multinational, the was an annoying but perfectly valid expression called the “low-hanging fruit.” The low hanging fruit in education, which no one ever seems to want to harvest, is measures like extending the school day to a proper length; having one teacher in a classroom with all the desks separate and facing the front; consistently applied and enforced disciplinary measures; streaming by ability throughout; a culture of testing so that national exams seem run of the mill.

    On the subject of the latter, I once attended a language school abroad as an adult where all the students were paying for the course out of their own pocket. My fellow students, who were mostly foreign, begged, successfully, for us not to be given tests, even at the end of the course. I was outraged. They and the school, however, appeared to think that the removal of the momentary and inconsequential dread of facing a test outweighed the benefits in terms of accomplishment of actually taking one!

  • Julian Taylor

    Hereward, what you say is pretty much on target in that children seem to be taught how to achieve test result passes, rather than being taught the discipline of learning.

    It is indeed a sad day when it is easier to employ Australian, New Zealander or South African staff in your office than to employ a British person who has pretty much the same CV and even the same qualifications, yet is completely unable to spell even simple words (“nobody ever taught me that you spell ‘nuisance’ like that, I thought it was spelled newsense”). At the very least schools in the UK should teach kids how to use Microsoft Word or OpenOffice Write’s spelling check.

  • Millie Woods

    The mind like the body needs healthy nutrients to grow and develop and the educational systems today are designed by and large to fill children up with the equivalent of junk food. This is a national tragedy throughout much of the western world.

  • David L Nilsson

    Johnathan Pearce wrote:

    “Matt, if schooling was opened up to parental choice, then schools, in order to attract the smartest kids and get future business, actually boast of choosing to have examinations run by the toughest exam boards, rather than the weakest. Instead of dumbing down, you would have a race to the top.”

    This already happens to the extent that some leading public schools (for whom Oxford & Cambridge A Levels used to be the gold standard) have switched from the British boards to the International Baccalaureate, which is also more recognisable by foreign universities as an admissions qualification (a lot of public school pupils are from foreign families).

    However, as long as teachers are heavily unionised, and even Eton has NUT members these days, they will resist external attempts to jack up standards as ‘elitist’, i.e. making them work harder.

  • niconoclast

    Grammar schools have been supplanted by Gramscian Schools -the horrific results there for all to see.None dare call it conspiracy. I call it Unintelligent Design.

  • RobtE

    I have been following, more or less, the debate in Parliament over Blair’s proposed education reforms. I can’t get past the impression that there’s something being left unsaid that I’m missing, perhaps because I have no personal experience of the British school system and so don’t have the necessary frame of reference.

    There seems to be an a priori assumption by those opposed to the reforms that selection by ability is a bad thing. Selection seems, to me, to be perfectly rational. Like the man said, education is about the elimination of ignorance; it can do nothing about stupidity. Some kids are bright, some are dumb. That’s just the way it is. I can only assume that the objection to selection is more to do with political convictions than about education.

    Can anyone please explain what that debate is about, namely, why the objection to selection?

  • RAB

    You have it in one there, Mr Lee!
    It is a political obsession of both the Old and New Labour party.
    In fact, along with the NHS, one of the few socialist shiboleths left.
    The fact that it is as dumb as picking the England team from the first 11 people to turn up at the stadium, doesn’t enter into it. It’s ideology!
    An endangered species one would hope, but unlike tigers, will be defended to the last man.

  • The Wobbly Guy

    Good point about the crux of the argument being selection by ability. Elitism, which is a defining characteristic of meritocratic systems, seems to be strongly discouraged in favor of a everyone-is-equal egalitarianism.

    By lowering standards, they make it seem as though every child is equally smart(or dumb). And based on that, it is easier to push through collectivist policies because, well, everybody’s the same!

  • niconoclast

    They are protecting their socialist thiefdoms/ strongholds/ where they have captive whole generations of mal educated prole-feed voting fodder.Upward mobility and class fluidity engendered by selection is the enemy of collectivist social engineering.

    Glasgow is one of the most gruesome illustrations of this malevolent and toxic ideology.