Saturday, August 18, 2007

Report on British education from Reform

That the education system is not delivering as it should is a bit of an open secret. A high percentage of children are not taught to read and write by age 11, which effectively sabotages the rest of the their education. We have falling exam standards, not just in grades for which you could actually make a justification if you want to push up the number of university entrants, but in absolute terms, for which there is no excuse. I have had three fast-track graduate trainees at work at one time or another and for two out of the three I have had to add remedial written grammar to their development schedule, and these are supposed to represent the apex of our education system.

There have been various attempts to fix matters from a government that on one hand rubbishes criticism as some sort of attack on hard-working students and on the other hand produces a secession of initiatives to fix what apparently isn't a problem. Now there is a new think-tank report on the subject that shows the sort of clarity of thought that has hitherto eluded ministers. I especially like this:
The centralisation and privatisation of the examination industry, has had detrimental effects on exam standards. The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA), is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Government. In effect this means that a branch of government decides the qualifications and the curriculum available to the very great majority of young people in England. The second problem relates to competition between the exam boards, of which England has six in comparison to two in the United States. They are competing for business, introducing an undesirable commercial element into the examinations industry. No one examination board can afford for their examination in any given subject to be seen to be significantly harder than that of another board, leading to an overall decline in standards.
There is such a thing as market failure.

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