12 January 2011

We Don't Get No Edjukayshun

With apologies to our American readers, it's not possible to let today's bleating of UK teaching unions pass without comment. Their response to publication of the fact that only 16% of 16-year-olds achieved the new 'English baccalaureate' has, all too predictably, been that the measure is unfair, in that it is retrospective. What they mean is that had they known in advance which subjects would go to make up the league tables, schools would have concentrated their efforts on those.

This is admitting what we have always known, that much teaching has nothing to do with education but a great deal to do with coaching to scrape examination passes. Were teaching of a universally decent quality it wouldn't matter which subjects were placed under the microscope. Moreover, we're not talking here about abstruse subjects, but English, mathematics, a second language, geography or history, and two sciences. Surely at least the first two should be regarded as important irrespective of the measurement system in operation?

That only one in six pupils obtain, in subjects critical to their life chances, the economy, and maintenance of culture, what used to be regarded as passes but are now referred to as 'good' grades (GCSE A to C), is a terrible indictment of the English education system. The teaching unions can whinge all they want. Schools exist for the benefit of their pupils, not for that of their teachers.

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