Tuesday, October 19, 2004

What an unholy mess...

...our education system has become.

Tuition fees, declining standards, truancy, coursework and cheating, poor teaching standards. So is the new diploma system going to help? Err, no.

Here are just a few edited highlights of what's wrong with it:

1) The various modules are not as clearly broken down as GCSEs and A-levels are, meaning that students wishing to take courses later in life or from prison, etc, will end up with a part of a qualification rather than a clear level.

2) Nothing is getting harder. The new A++ is a joke, the problem of schools choosing the easiest exam board and the exam boards getting progressively easier to increase their market share will persist.

3) The system is unfair on students doing Scottish Highers and International Bacalaureats since these continue to receive less "points" on the university application system.

4) The idea that the new system will give greater credibility to vocational courses is wholly speculative. There's no reason why it should.

5) Focus on vocational skills and "apprenticeships" may be a good thing, however a simultaneous focus on employers to find "skilled" opportunities - rather than "McJobs" is likely needed to counteract the way in which the job market has shifted since the last time we all had apprenticeships.

6) The shift away from exams to teachers marks frightens me greatly. Smart kids who are bored in lessons and become a nuisance to teachers (like I did many years ago) will be at risk of being marked down.

7) Problem of coursework and cheating not addressed. Everyone at my school did it more than ten years ago: teachers, parents and children copying each other.

Ok and enough whinging. Here's what we SHOULD do instead:

1) Centralise the exam board system. Some flexibility in terms of syllabus would probably be helpful, but lets have a standardised system so that everyone's results are comparable and we can stop the drift of standards.

2) No more coursework. Kids need to learn not to be intimidated by exams. We could have some exams which kids are allowed to bring text-books in to, to reduce the need to memorise things.

3) Exams get harder, like they used to be. No A+ or A*. Just an A grade that means something.

4) Everyone studies English, Maths, a Science, IT and a language up to GCSE. Top students should be doing 10 GCSEs, less academic kids do these 5 and vocational stuff.

5) Schools to teach "life skills" one afternoon per week (shame that they need to, but they do). Students should leave able to cook healthy meals, repair clothes, put up shelves, wire plugs, basic gardening, first aid, child care, etc and kids with skills and interests in these areas should be offered the opportunity to spend more time on them, leading to apprenticeships.

6) Instead of trying to recruit teachers straight out of uni, lets try to recruit more coming out of industry and other professions. Offer shorter conversion courses for people who already have the skills to become teachers, treat the long holidays as semi-retirement, and bring real role models with real life experiences into school.

...well I could go on all day...I think you can see what I mean...

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