The cycle of education

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There ought to be a word for this whole caper, this cycle of education. Stupidity? Gall? Incompetence?

There ought to be a word for this whole caper, this cycle. Stupidity? Gall? Incompetence? It seems to go thus. Crisis management “unveils” initiative, issues edict, compels you to deliver it, sacks you if you don’t, realises it’s the utter bollox we told them it was, and then trashes us for meeting some pointless targets. Then the cycle starts again.

So this week’s rubbish is GCSEs. They’re “not fit for purpose”. They’re worthless. Just what your poor pupils want to hear, as they toil away in broiling gyms. Who says so? The CBI Director General, John Cridland. A very Big Wig indeed. They reduce teaching to a “prescribed form of learning” and promote that dreaded “teaching to the test”.

Well, what else do you expect us to teach to? Our pupils must get A*s, if they want to avoid a future of debt, dereliction, madness, lap-dancing and the soup kitchen. Their teachers too. So you teach with a ruthless cynicism to assessment objectives in which you have never believed. It coarsens the soul. It works a treat.

Well, no more, apparently. Mr CBI wants a more “inspirational classroom experience”. My generation got sacked for too much of that sort of thing. Whatever. GCSEs must go. “Abandon them!” says the Corporate Sage. For what? “A levels!” Ah. They’re “the Gold Standard”. 

Oh no they’re not! Who say? The Gove – for it is he. They “fall short of commanding the level of confidence required”, chirps the relentlessly perky twerp. He should know. Ofqual concurs. Posh universities do more concurring. Our pupils, they say, are deficient in skills like “researching, finding sources, essay-writing and referencing, and the wider skills of problem-solving and analysis and critical-thinking”. Apart from that, they’re pretty good. And A levels can also kill that inspiration. Ho! Ho! Really? 

The AQA English A level was once the best on the planet. It encouraged a fierce critical rigour and nourished imagination. We loved it. The pupils loved it. It was ours. So they stopped it. Why? Who knows? Perhaps that literature stuff can make you a little too inspired and critical – and bolshy. They don’t ever really want it. Still it will all change soon. So it goes. The cycle continues.


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