Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Lack of education

I'm afraid that your humble Devil simply counldn't be arsed to comment on the exam results again this year. Besides, in the face of yet more record results, Juliette has rather neatly summed up the explanatory options.
Now, I'm no expert on this particular subject. But I find that, at times like this, it helps to look at all the possible explanations—and ask yourself which one is the most likely.

Is it most likely that Britain's young people are naturally evolving into a super-intelligent master race, with at least twice the average IQ of their typical counterparts twenty years ago?

Is it most likely that their inherent mental abilities haven't changed, but the educational system is so vastly superior to how it was back in the day—with its brilliantly high standards, passion for excellence, and highly skilled, motivated teachers—that pupils still score far higher marks in equally hard exams?

Or is it most likely that the government is blatantly juking the stats in a pathetic and cynical attempt to make our shitty education system look effective?

Personally, I just don't know. Why don't we ask professional hag Melissa Benn? According to her, grammar schools are still ruining the chances of those poor, wee comprehensive children. Luckily, she has a solution.
A document published this week, Ending Rejection at Eleven Plus [PDF], shows just how easily grammar schools could be phased out...

The paper is published by a "think"-tank called Comprehensive Future which, campaigns for "fair admissions". It is a little bit unfortunate that darling Melissa didn't have space in her article to mention that she is a member of Comprehensive Future's Steering Committee. Never mind.

Melissa's little organisation spends its time, of course, lobbying the media and politicians because, outrageously, parents keep voting for more selection—and we can't have that now, can we?

Mind you, Melissa ends her article on a paragraph which, probably unintentionally, rather sums up the whole education system. [Emphasis mine.]
The record-breaking GCSE results this year, many of them achieved at schools serving some of the most deprived areas of the country, show just what can be done within a comprehensive framework, with high expectations of all children not just a privileged few. Many of this year's high achievers would have likely failed the 11-plus.

I'm not sure that's what you meant to write, Melissa, but you are oh-so-right: many of this year's high achievers would, indeed, have failed the 11-plus.

Not that doing so would necessarily hold them back, eh, Polly...?


Brad said...

Would it be a cheap shot for a foreigner to ask where these people send their own children to school?

Vicola said...

She reminds me of that miserable bat who has hitched her wagon to Campbell's train, Fffffion or whatever her name is, who blames the fact that the education system is shit on parents who send their offspring to private school. Because by rights they should be sending their bright kids to inner city sink schools to raise the standards. Personally I think that any parent who is willing to put Labour's social inclusion agenda above the educational needs and potential of their child should have their sprogs removed from them and put with someone who isn't a prat but then I went to private school so what the hell do I know about anything. Other than reading, writing, maths and science that is.

John B said...

"Is it most likely that educational standards have improved a bit, as you'd expect given the general advancement of human knowledge, teachers have got much better at teaching to exams, as you'd expect given the focus on league tables, and the stats have been juked slightly, as you'd expect given that they're government stats" - yes, yes it is.

Costello said...

"Would it be a cheap shot for a foreigner to ask where these people send their own children to school?"

Well she's Tony Benn's daughter and, if memory serves, he made a very public song and dance about how he sent his children to a state school. Of course he didn't make such a big song and dance of the fact that he was spending a great deal of money having them privately tutored outwith school hours as well.

Anonymous said...

Russell Group universities are now providing remedial classes because students arrive not only incapable of writing a critical essay but, in fact, incapable of expressing themselves in written English in even the most basic fashion.

The work undertaken by pupils at A Level and Higher is now of a lower quality than the work done for O Grades twenty years ago or Standard Grades twelve years.

At my university, as at most others, we have traditionally streamed language students into classes on the basis of prior familiarity with the language. If you're a complete novice, you go to the novice crash course intended to give you fluency in six months. If you have an A Level or Higher, you go to a more sedate first year class with a more literary slant which, again, aims at fluency in six months. If you can prove that you are already effectively fluent, you can proceed directly to second year.

That is how it was always done....until about five years ago when we realised that people with top passes in their A Levels and Highers simply had no grasp of the language beyond the memorisation of set phrases. Now all students go into the novice crash course. Students who've studied a language for six years, who should be bordering on fluency before they even arrive at university, don't even understand how verb tenses or noun cases work.

But we're told by the government's stooges in the university administration that we shouldn't worry. It'll be just like America, you see - students will arrive literally knowing nothing and will spend their time learning for their degree all the stuff they should have learnt at school. But then, y'see, then they can do a Master's degree and learn that fancy-ass academic crap if they want. So it all works out in the end, don't it?

When Labour took power in 1997, British universities were the envy of the world. Today, they're rushing to do the job secondary teachers couldn't be bothered doing, all the while handicapped by a culture of blind political correctness ("How many disabled female non-white lecturers do we have? None? Fuck! Hire one at once, even if she's incompetent!"; "How many gays in the department? Sixty percent of lecturers? Excellent. Keep it that way. No.") and a fixation with quantity not quality of research.

Makes me want to retrain as a plumber.

Brad said...

Here in the US, there is, in fact, a small but growing stream of teachers who've elected to leave not only the teaching profession but any 'profession'. Many of them are retraining as plumbers, electricians, refrigerator/air conditioning repairmen. Your work can't be outsourced, you're your own boss, the only meetings you have are with your customers and suppliers-boring and sometimes with arguments, but at least you can see a definite relationship to your work; your work is judged on quality and how much you do instead of how many years you've been doing it-and no kids with 'behavioral problems' or 'issues'. Just go in and do your job.

Pat said...

I would have thoought that teaching has improved- somewhat- as everything else has improved which is of course a positive developement. Certainly teaching to the test has improved (though of what value that is I can't say). Certainly politicians, officials and heads have every incentive to game the system- and I'm sure they've all done that (no use to man nor beast). The other factor, which is not mentioned above is that todays children have, in the main, better educated parents than their parents had- so a lot more education happens at home.
Of course one fallacy in reading the improved pass rates is to assume that a degree educated person today can expect the same remuneration (for the same degree and relative to the general population as ,say fifty years ago. Not so- fifty years ago a degree marked you as one of the brightest five percent in the country, today it marks you merely in the top half- which doesn't confer the same advantage.

Chalcedon said...

A tale. A group of pupils aged around 16, about 40 % got A grades in Maths GCSE. So they were given a 1976 O level maths paper.

Now around 15% got A grades, about the same as in 1976. Todays youngsters are just as intelligent as they were over 30 years ago. It's just that the examinations have got easier and the marking regime has changed. If it was done proportionately for each year then you would always get the top 10% with A grade and so on, clearly delineating the brightest from the rest. About time public exam boards were once again the province of the universities and not private companies.