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Category archive: Qualifications

Thursday June 19 2008

Before going off on holiday last week, on Tuesday 10th of this month, I went to an event at what used to be called the London School of Printing, but which is now called this:


Website here.  Click on that photo to see at bit more of what sort of building this is.

This was the end-of-year show of photos put on by Goddaughter 1 and all her mates doing the ABC Diploma in Photography.  It was a crowded show, packed with friends and relatives like me.  All the photos looked great to me.  I couldn’t find a single duff set among them.  They all know how to do photography, I can confidently report.  Which is scary if you want just one of the photographers on show to do really well.


What struck me particularly was how many non-Brits were involved in this event, as students and as supporters of the students.  Particularly Asians, and particularly Asian women.  Higher education in Britain is no longer something laid on merely for Brits.  It is a huge British export industry.  Young friends tell me that this is because foreigners have to pay more, so foreigners are preferred.


That’s Goddaugher 1 and her set of photos, which seemed to be attracting quite a bit of attention, and which I thought were very well displayed.  She showed a couple of good big ones, several smaller ones that you could take out of their racks and scrutinise, and a portfolio containing lots of other equally good photos.  Just like me, Goddaughter 1 likes to photo photographers.  That’s her in the green top, anxiously awaiting the verdict of the European Photo Editor for Time MagazIne.  Or maybe not.  Let’s hope it was someone of significance.

I hope to learn more about this course, but from what little I’ve learned of it so far, it was pretty good.  In particular, it is practical, with classes not just about how to do the work, but about how to get it in the first place.

Tuesday June 10 2008

Fraser Nelson links to this Telegraph story, about Lord Adonis’s latest pronouncements about rearranging schools, this time to make them bigger, teaching all the way through from 5 to 18.  Making people who don’t want to do that sounds like a really bad idea, and I agree with Nelson.  Let the parents decide.

However, this story strikes me as rather more interesting:

More parents are taking out loans to pay for independent school fees as the credit this crisis starts to bite, according to a report.

As many as 18,000 parents took out personal loans last year as fees increased to a record high, it is revealed.

The average loan was for £9,065, with experts claiming that applications will rise in coming years as parents struggle with rising energy, fuel and food bills.

The conclusions - in a study by Sainsbury’s Finance - come amid growing concerns over year-on-year fee increases.

Last month, Chris Woodhead, the former chief inspector of schools, said that some parents were being ripped off as schools spent money on “five-star facilities” with little education benefit.

But schools insist that increases are due to staffing costs, with class sizes in the independent sector considerably smaller than state schools.

That some of these parents will learn an unwelcome lesson of their own, about the dangers of getting into debt, I have no doubt.  What would be the educational equivalent of negative equity?  A qualification which seems valuable at the time, but which later turns out to be useless, I suppose.  Let’s hope they’ve done the maths.

Monday May 12 2008

There’s no link in this posting to the Kavanagh column mentioned, so I’m guessing it was paper only.  Anyway, here’s what James Forsyth says about it:

Trevor Kavanagh’s column in The Sun today brilliantly details the way that £1.229 trillion has been added to the public’s tab over the last ten years - an astonishing £20,500 extra per person. 87 percent and 90 percent increases in health and education spending respectively have not resulted in the transformation of these services. Indeed, all it has done is test to destruction the idea that all these services needed was more money.

There is now fierce debate about whether education is getting better in Britain, or worse.  On Question Time recently, for instance, a Labour Lady pointed out that there are now many more graduates in the teaching profession than there used to be.  But does that mean that teachers have got better?  It could just mean that graduates have got worse, and that potentially good teachers who aren’t graduates are being kept out of the profession by credentialism.

But my point is: there is fierce debate.  If the education budget has been nearly doubled, there ought not to be any debate.

Sunday April 20 2008

Speaking as a more-or-less completely (assuming a mere degree doesn’t count) unqualified sort-of teacher(’s assistant), I am having a lot of fun reading all the comments on this piece.  (Sorry, this link to the TES blog doesn’t work properly.  If you really want to find this piece and all its comments, without a lot of nonsense about subscribing, you have to go to where it says “Home”.  When there, go to the column with “Community” in blue at the top, go down to where it says “Blogs”, and click on where it says “Should unqualified people be teaching in our schools?” I kinow.  Ridiculous.  You’d almost think it was designed to keep casual onlookers away.)

When you finally get there, what you encounter is qualified and unqualified teachers furiously trying to convince one another, or perhaps third party onlookers like me, of their educational excellence, both sides often using English that is badly spelt and rather ungrammatical.

A persistent idea emerges, in the form of protestations from qualified teachers that unqualified persons aren’t allowed to perform brain surgery, therefore unqualified teaching should be similarly forbidden.  This is very silly.  No non-surgically-qualified parent performs brain surgery on his child either, yet parents who are “not qualified to teach” constantly teach their own children, often very successfully.  If the comparison held up, parents who were (a) not qualified teachers but who (b) ever taught their children anything would have to be done for child abuse.  (I know.  Don’t give them ideas.) I mean, when did you last hear of a child dying, straight away, because – and only because – of incompetent teaching?

Associated with the brain surgery meme is the constantly repeated statement that if you are not a qualified teacher, you aren’t a teacher.  It’s an on-off thing, like being pregnant or not pregnant, and if you don’t have the relevant capital letters after your name, you ... are ... not ... a ... teacher.  (Their punctuation, not mine.)

The reason only “qualified surgeons” are called “surgeons” is because “unqualified surgeons” don’t get to do any surgery.  If they did it adequately (which is a very big if - but if) they’d also be surgeons.  Just not qualified surgeons.  But this is very rare.  Teaching by “unqualified” teachers, on the other hand, happens all the time.  I know this.  I do it myself.

However, the strength of a case is not determined by how silly are its silliest proponents.  I am sure that some schools do indeed economise by hiring bad unqualified teachers instead of good qualified ones.  But the cure for that is not to simply pass a law forbidding the hiring of unqualified teachers, bad or good.

Wednesday March 12 2008

I missed this WSJ piece asking why Finnish kids are so smart, when it was published on the 29th of last month.  Quote:

The academic prowess of Finland’s students has lured educators from more than 50 countries in recent years to learn the country’s secret, including an official from the U.S. Department of Education. What they find is simple but not easy: well-trained teachers and responsible children. Early on, kids do a lot without adults hovering. And teachers create lessons to fit their students. “We don’t have oil or other riches. Knowledge is the thing Finnish people have,” says Hannele Frantsi, a school principal.

Maybe part of it is that Finnish children grow up happy.  I visited Finland long ago, and the children in particular did seem very happy.

Seriously, I do think that there’s a connection between children being happy and children being ready to learn, because happy children are less downcast when they find things difficult to grasp at first.  They are not plunged into deep gloom by their temporary ignorance or befuddlement, merely into a state of mild confusion.  They’re not so ready to damn themselves as incurably thick, and switch off.

Come to think of it, there’s also a connection between adults being happy and adults being willing to learn.  Don’t you think?

Thursday March 06 2008

On the face of it, this is outrageous:

Parents who lack teaching credentials cannot educate their children at home, according to a state appellate court ruling that is sending waves of fear through California’s home schooling families.

Says the headline above this apparent abomination:

Ruling seen as a threat to many home-schooling families

I love that “seen as”.

Tuesday February 12 2008

From Times Online:

All 14-year-old children in England will have their personal details and exam results placed on an electronic database for life under a plan to be announced tomorrow.

Colleges and prospective employers will be able to access students’ records online to check on their qualifications. Under the terms of the scheme all children will keep their individual number throughout their adult lives, The Times has learnt. The database will include details of exclusions and expulsions.

Officials said last night that the introduction of the unique learner number (ULN) was not a step towards a national identity card. But it will be seen as the latest step in the Government’s broader efforts to computerise personal records.

The bit that seems to be most open to abuse is the bit that says: “… prospective employers will be able to access students’ records online”.  Prospective employers?  That sounds like a lot of people.

The NO2ID News Blog doesn’t appear to have any comment about this particular report.  But on January 31st, they did quote Timothy Garton Ash saying this, which seems pertinent:

Britain’s snooper state is getting completely out of hand. We are sleepwalking into a surveillance society, and we must wake up. When the Stasi started spying on me, as I moved around East Germany 30 years ago, I travelled on the assumption that I was coming from one of the freest countries in the world to one of the least free. I don’t think I was wrong then, but I would certainly be wrong now. Today, the people of East Germany are much less spied upon than the people of Britain.

What does it do to the world if everyone can quickly find out everything about everybody?.  Well all right, not everyone and not everything, but let’s just say: every “connected” person (elite member who can access such info), and every exam result? Will exam results become even more important?  Will people check each other’s qualifications before socialising with them, the way they google them already?  Will the fact that the wrong kind of exam results count for very little mean that egalitarianism will take yet another beating?

Sunday February 10 2008

Do you have to be educated, and in particular highly qualified, to get ahead in the world today?  Some interesting reflections by BGC in a comment on this:

The more I look into it, the more it seems that the most parsimonious explanation of educational differentials in modernizing societies is that both education and signalling are less important than we realize; and that IQ is the major factor with personality/temperament as an important secondary factor.

To parody, IQ and temperament are destiny (with a high IQ and a conscientious temperament being optimal on average for both status and income). Several longitudinal IQ studies have shown near-perfect social mobility with respect to IQ (ie. poor kids with IQ rise to the level predicted by their IQ; rich kinds with low IQ fall).

The picture is modified by the fact that IQ is substantially inherited, and that there are big average IQ differences between social classes.

IQ and temperament predict educational attainment - however, of course, educational credentials are also vital, and add noise to this correlation (no matter how clever and hardworking you are, you can’t be a doctor without a degree - but you could still become an entrepreneur).

In the long term, as psychometric testing improves or is all-but replaced by genetic testing - and when the relatively modest effects of education become established - it may be that the amount of time spent in full time education will begin to diminish, and will become much more focused.

We can dream.  I agree that intelligence and temperament are both very important, but believe that education, truly understood, is also crucial, rather as you need an acorn and a friendly environment to make an oak tree.  Remove either, and it’s no oak tree.

But that doesn’t mean that the right environment for clever people with a good temperament is necessarily “education”, as commonly understood now.  Doesn’t education, done well, make your “temperament” better?

All of which is a bit beside the point that the original posting was making, which was a rather intriguing conjecture about how more education, as commonly understood, reduces inflation.  Which is a new idea to me.

Does IQ count for more than education?
If they don’t know what makes a good teacher then we should all decide for ourselves
The Brazen Careerist on how to get a job you’re not qualified for