A libertarian inclined blog for teachers and learners of all ages. Comments, emails and links to other educational stuff welcome.

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Category archive: League tables

Tuesday June 03 2008

The Telegraph reports:

GCSEs are “considerably” easier than tests sat 50 years ago as questions are simplified to make them more relevant to modern teenagers, it said.

Reform, an independent think tank, said the traditional emphasis on algebra, arithmetic and geometry has been dropped in favour of questions focusing on real-life situations. It added that pupils can now gain a good grade with fewer than half the marks needed in 1990.

Reform also claimed that the lack of rigour has led to fewer students studying maths at sixth-form and university - leaving the British economy vulnerable to competition from China and India.

So, it would seem that “real-life” situations are not relevant.  Oh dear.

Here‘s what Reform itself has to say about the report.  And here (.pdf) is the report itself.

I’m an individualist about stuff like this.  It may matter to the Prime Minister than Britain’s children are slipping down the international league tables, but an individual child isn’t going to be unemployable merely because he doesn’t have a PhD in maths.  Okay, less rich maybe, but will he starve?

Maybe the answer is much better teachers and much bigger classes.  In other words obscenely high salaries for the best maths teachers in the country.  That’s only going to happen in the private sector.  So I say, eliminate the teaching of maths altogether from state schools (according to the Reform report good progress is already being made along these lines), and tell the parents it’s up to them to buy it elsewhere.  Just kidding.

Or maybe I’m not kidding.  Seriously, maths as showbiz.  If you ran maths classes in huge conference centres, charged a fiver a head per class, packed them in, but wanted them to keep coming back time after time because the show was actually very good - the children liked it and their parents liked it - what would it consist of?

Sunday April 27 2008

From today’s Sunday Telegraph, I learn two things.  The country’s most expensive schools are putting up their fees a lot, and revolting over league tables:

Eton and St Paul’s are to boycott this year’s exam league tables, claiming the focus on raw results is killing good teaching and damaging education.

The elite public schools are refusing to submit their results to the Independent Schools Council for publication in August, following the release of A-levels and GCSE grades.

Announcing the joint decision this week, Martin Stephen, the high master of St Paul’s boys school in west London, will also launch a scathing attack on the Government’s “politically driven” performance tables, published in January.

The “nonsensical” data, which give equal weighting to A-level physics and a qualification in flower arranging, is in effect lying to parents, he will say.

Bollocks.  He already has said it.  Sorry (as we English often say when we aren’t at all sorry but are in fact putting the conversational knife in and twisting it vigorously), but I have an extreme aversion to bullshit press release speak, even when what is being said is quite interesting.  See also this posting.  I believe I even feel a Samizdata attack on these cretinous creations coming on.

So anyway, what these two stories demonstrate is the difference between taking orders from the government, and taking orders from individual parental paying customers.  The government wants the appearance of educational improvement, or you don’t get your government money.  In state schools, that is to say, the government is the customer.  Parents paying for “private” education want actual education, in exchange for the horribly escalating fees they are paying.  And whoever is paying has a pretty good chance of getting what they are paying for.

Just why these fees are escalating is a whole different story, in my opinion.  I have my theories about that, which you will doubtless learn one day.  Just not this day.

Wednesday February 27 2008

This is very odd.  The headline at the top says:

Local union/board officials say Fraser Institute ranking helpful for education

But the first sentence of the story immediately below this headline goes:

Local education administrators and union officials are saying that the Fraser Institute Report ranking Ontario’s schools is less than helpful.

It’s all about how a Free Market Institute (the Fraser Institute) is judging the quality of schools, in accordance with a restricted notion of what school quality consists of.  Test results basically.

I think that free market institutes should be saying not: This is how we judge schools; but rather: How can schools be re-arranged to the point where people can judge schools for themselves?  (See the previous posting.)