Sunday, January 03, 2010
Educational Standards an Appalling Disgrace
The Economist, back on 5th December 2009, suggests that too many candidates are gaining top grades in GCSE exams ever since the ‘cap’ was removed in 1988. Yet this apparent progress has been shown to be illusory by three recent separate studies. The think-tank Reform’s report focussed on the narrowness of basic requirements for 16 year-olds, required, as they are to take only three subjects-English, maths and science- and in some cases no others. The bias against vocational qualifications- for entry into university for example- tends to segregate the workforce and makes it hard for people to improve their employment.
This is especially dangerous now that globalisation has ratcheted up competition in the marketplace. Many of UK’s competitors-France, Japan, Canada- insist their children are familiar with a much wider range of subjects. Germany, which educates a third of its children in vocational schools, has reformed the national curriculum to lay down minimum standards in literacy and numeracy. Students in Sweden have to take over 10 subjects for their ‘gymnasium’ exams. Reforms experts judged questions in UK exams to be good in literacy but poor in maths and sciences.
The University and College Union(UCU) report analysed data from the OECD and found UK has fallen far behind in the percentage of students it educates 15-19. Belgium manages a figure of about 94%, the same as in 1995; Ireland 90% up from 78% in 95; Germany 85% for both years; France 85% and 88% but Britain below USA (80% and 72%) at 73% and 71%. Amongst 20-29 year olds the picture was similar: while the percentage in full or part-time education rose across the OECD from 18% to 25% in Britain it fell from 18% to 17%. See table above.
Finally test results for 11 year olds registered a fall of 20% among those schools achieving a minimum standard. Moreover, the number of pupils leaving school with an acce3ptable standard of English also fell.
It hardly requires me to add that this is a really shabby aspect of Labour's record, especially after Blair's promises in 1997. School buildings have been built and repared but the minds of those taught within-from ages 11-to 30- have scarcely made any real progress.
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