Thoughts from an active pensioner who is now somewhat past his Biblical "Use-by date"

"Why just be difficult, when with a little more effort you can be bloody impossible?"

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Educational Standards

The OECD has tested the educational standards of 15 year olds in a number of developing countries, and Britain has performed abysmally.
We are 25th in the list as far as reading is concerned, with Hong Kong and Shanghai coming near the top and Japan in eighth position. When you consider the nature of their alphabet (if that's what you call it) and the complexity of their script, it becomes quite obvious that something is badly wrong in this country.
Our maths is even worse, with Britain in 30th position, and science not much better with us in 16th position.
If one looks at the English speaking Commonwealth nations, Canada, New Zealand & Australia, all perform far, far better than we do, and when you look at the detail, you find they spend far less per head.
Where have we gone wrong? Why are our standards in the "Three R's" far worse than they were 100 years ago? My grandmother, born in 1862 was one of nine children in a working class family. She went to the "National School" which she left at an age of 12 and never had any further formal education, working in hotels and later running a boarding house. But she had beautiful handwriting (I've still got some of her letters) and her style of writing and her command of the English language was far better than most people in this country could manage these days. When I knew her, she had a wide range of the Classics on her bookshelf and conscientiously visited the public library each week to get some fresh books (there was no TV!).
So why are 20% of our children at the age of 15 being described as "functionally illiterate", particularly as we are now spending more on their education than ever before?
There is no doubt in my mind that the teachers are largely to blame. They have embraced all kinds of unproven trendy ideas, insisted on (unnecessary) high levels of education for teachers in junior schools, and connived in the lack of discipline in the class.
I believe that we have badly let down all our children by failing to do the right thing.
Who needs a degree to teach a child to read or write? My wife taught both of our girls to read long before they went to school , and then was castigated for having done so!
In my grandmother's day, teachers were apprenticed and learnt to teach "on the job" with a more experienced teacher.Why on earth do we consider it necessary to send them to training college?
It's time we got back to first principles, concentrated on the basics, forgot computers and trendy modern ideas and simply concentrated on the core objective of ensuring that our children can read and write.
Until children can read and write fluently, they cannot sensibly study any other subject or even get a worthwhile job. Of course they will leave school knowing about all the fashionable things like global warming, human rights, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and how to sue for damages, but will know absolutely nothing of use in the real world except how to claim benefits.
The next generation of children have been badly let down by theteaching establishment.

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