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August 26, 2007

What an Excellent Idea

Although might I suggest a small change?

Education is set to become a central battleground between Labour and the Conservatives as David Cameron considers plans that would allow parents to set up their own schools to rival those of the local authority.

In areas where schools are performing badly, the councils should have no power to stop such a move, a Tory policy review will recommend this week. Co-chaired by former cabinet minister Stephen Dorrell, it will argue that forcing local authorities to fund the schools would boost exam performance.

Instead of hedging it around with criteria like "in areas where schools are performing badly" and "parents setting up their won schools" why not simply state that education funding is attatched to the child? As in a voucher? Only one more thing is then necessary: allow any two qualified teachers to set up a school.

This is roughly the Sewdish system, one that is admired, provides much greater social mobility than our own system etc etc.

Don't reinvent the wheel: simply import a system that we know works.

August 26, 2007 in Academia | Permalink

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"Don't reinvent the wheel: simply import a system that we know works."

For many, mostly sad reasons, I doubt that would work in Britain.

Sweden is fortunate in not having this cultural legacy described by George Orwell in 1936:

"Working people often have a vague reverence for learning in others, but where 'education' touches their own lives they see through it and reject it by a healthy instinct. The time was when I used to lament over quite imaginary pictures of lads of fourteen dragged protesting from their lessons and set to work at dismal jobs. It seemed to me dreadful that the doom of a 'job' should descend upon anyone at fourteen. Of course I know now that there is not one working-class boy in a thousand who does not pine for the day when he will leave school. He wants to be doing real work, not wasting his time on ridiculous rubbish like history and geography. To the working class, the notion of staying at school till you are nearly grown-up seems merely contemptible and unmanly."
http://www.george-orwell.org/North_And_South/0.html

In parts, not a lot has changed since Orwell wrote that. In the latest GCSE exams: "Examiners have raised concerns over the amount of 'sickeningly violent' content in students' creative coursework for their English GCSEs."
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/6963646.stm

"The proportion of young people in England who are not in education, training or work appears to have gone up, despite government efforts. The provisional figure for 2005, just published, is 11% against 10% for 2004.

"There has been an improvement in the proportion of those aged 16 to 18 who are in education or training, rather than in employment. This is now 76.2% compared with a low point of 74.8%, but is still below the 1994 figure of 77.6%."
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/5059650.stm

Just another part of our legacy from Tony Blair.

In various places it has been suggested that the Netherlands has a good model for schooling:

"In the Netherlands over two-thirds of state-funded schools operate autonomously, with many of these schools being linked to faith groups."
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/features/2749035.stm

Posted by: Bob B | Aug 26, 2007 4:32:22 PM

All very well, Bob, but I went to school in rural Scotland where Orwell's lament was quite untrue. The undermining of the local Academy was the work of indoctrinated teachers, not the local culture.

Posted by: dearieme | Aug 26, 2007 11:43:11 PM

dearieme - Orwell's essay: North South, which is also chapter 7 of: The Road to Wigan Pier (1937), was about poverty in the north of England during the depression years of the 1930s. It took selective peeks at the north of England, mostly in Yorkshire and Lancashire, and in Yorkshire, specifically at Sheffield and the mining areas.

Scotland has a completely different cultural heritage. At c. 1800, Scotland then had four ancient universities (St Andrews, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen) while England had only two - Oxford and Cambridge. Durham University, the third oldest English university, wasn't founded until 1832. The University of London, chartered to award degrees, was founded in 1836.

British ambivalence to education is historically distinctive:

"We have noted a substantial body of original research . . . which found that stagnant or declining literacy underlay the 'revolution' of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. . . Britain in 1850 was the wealthiest country in the world but only in the second rank as regards literacy levels. [Nick] Crafts has shown that in 1870 when Britain was world economic leader, its school enrolment ratio was only 0.168 compared with the European norm of 0.514 and 'Britain persistently had a relatively low rate of accumulation of human capital'."
Sanderson: Education, economic change and society in 1780-1870 (Cambridge UP, 1995) p.61

In places even now, Orwell's description of a macho, working class culture with an aversion to education is still instantly recognisable. It is reflected in the yawning gulf between the achievement of girls and boys in school exams - and more women are now graduating from our universities than men. It is also reflected in the relatively low stay-on rate in education (or training) in Britain compared with other high-income, peer-group countries:

"Last year [2004], a report from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) revealed that Britain came seventh from bottom in a league table of staying-on rates for 19 countries. Only Mexico and Turkey had significantly lower rates of participation for this age group. Italy, New Zealand, Portugal and Slovakia have marginally lower rates."
http://education.guardian.co.uk/gcses/story/0,16086,1555547,00.html

What's worse, the situation is not unambiguously getting better for all Tony Blair's clarion call in 1997: Education, Education, Education:

"The proportion of young people in England who are not in education, training or work appears to have gone up, despite government efforts. The provisional figure for 2005, just published, is 11% against 10% for 2004.

"There has been an improvement in the proportion of those aged 16 to 18 who are in education or training, rather than in employment. This is now 76.2% compared with a low point of 74.8%, but is still below the 1994 figure of 77.6%."
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/5059650.stm

The trouble is that unskilled manual jobs are rapidly going out of fashion - which might just connect with this in recent news about the GCSE exam results:

"Examiners have raised concerns over the amount of 'sickeningly violent' content in students' creative coursework for their English GCSEs."
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/6963646.stm

Posted by: Bob B | Aug 27, 2007 8:19:21 AM

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