Sunday, January 20, 2008

Maths and More Maths

The Qualification and Curriculum Authority (who I had never heard of until today) have announced that they think Maths A-Level is too easy and a further qualification should be introduced to stretch brighter students.

Now firstly the solution to exams getting easier should surely be to make them harder and extend the curriculum, not introduce new extra exams.

Secondly there already is a qualification called Further Maths A-Level (I should know, I've got one). So it sounds like they might as well be saying "cutting a whole lawn with nail scissors takes ages, there should be a machine with rotating blades and a small engine that does this job...".

Finally I think the trouble really with maths is that everything else is being dumbed down. Maths is about thinking and modern school curricula leave so little room for thinking that by the time students get as far along their educational careers as the sort of maths that requires thinking, they've long since been taught not to think.

The way to prevent dumbing-down in education is to nationalise the exam boards. The very idea that different exam boards compete to supply exams in schools is ridiculous. Schools, under pressure themselves to beat their own previous exam pass rates inevitably shop around for the easiest exams. Certainly I was bored senseless at school, when I wasn't being bullied by the other students or vicitmised by the teachers.

Now the law in the UK says:

"The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable-

(a) to his age, ability and aptitude, and

(b) to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.

Certainly the schools I went to (which were supposed to be the better ones in the area) were not efficient, at all, we learnt the same things over and over again, long after most of us had memorised them. And if you consider me (a) being smart for my age, well ahead of the rest of the class most of the time, and (b) being an emotional disaster due to the abuse I was getting at home, you could definitely claim the places weren't suitable for my ability, aptitude and special needs. Which made me wonder if it might not be technically illegal to send your child to one of the particularly bad state schools in the UK...?

Homeschooling is certainly on the rise and has benefits for those who have the time and energy to do it. Sadly it also has benefits for those who wish to indoctrinate their kids with religious nonsense/fascist views/etc.


Benjamin Partridge said...

Nationalise the exam boards? I don't see that it would make a difference.

Surely the government in power has as much incentive as individual schools to get more kids passing exams with higher marks?

Cruella said...

we have a national curriculum, so to test understanding of it, seems obvious the tests should be set by a national body not a private company.

i agree the government has an incentive to make exams easier. when i say nationalise i guess i mean set up a single independent exam board, funded in a formal way by the government, rather than being beholden to private investors.

Henry Cate said...

"Sadly it also has benefits for those who wish to indoctrinate their kids with religious nonsense/fascist views/etc."

I argue that there had been more brainwashing in public schools.

Stalin once said "A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic."

Children suffering in a "homeschool" home is news, because it is so infrequent. Children suffering in public schools is normal.

Cruella said...

Generally I agree, that said however there has been a rise in home-schooling int he US directly related to the whole creationism thing. Also there was that hideous Louis Theroux documentary about the white supremacist family whose young blond twin girls sing at rallies as a band.