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Saturday, 23 January 2010

'Worthless qualifications' give false hope to state pupils, says Harrow head

There seems to be a clear and inexplicable disintegration of the UK education system in the last few years. I read this as an expat, an outsider looking at the system that educated me and, I think, from such a safe distance, I look at it objectively. What I've noticed is starting in 2006, all UK students had to start paying for their university studies where hitherto it was free. This is on top of the 1992 law that removed maintenance grants for universities meaning that there was to be an introduction of student loans for this first time. Only recently I read that the government is considering reducing degrees from 3 years to 2 years. An alien from outer space might reasonably consider that the government doesn't want an educated populace for fear it may stop it from doing its own thing. Am I just being a conspiracy theorist again?

The head of Harrow school, Barnaby Lenon, berates the trend for smart kids to be told to take soft subject and get a so so degree while the bright kids in independent schools are told the opposite, "take the toughest subjects, such as sciences and modern languages". Here's what he said,

"Bright children from poor backgrounds are being short-changed by those who lead them to believe that "high grades in soft subjects" and going to "any old university to read any subject" were the route to prosperity, he told a conference of leading private and state school headteachers."

We seem utterly incapable of producing adults that will have a part to play in shaping our society and seem to be farming our children to produce nice reliable, dependable consumers who will keep the economy ticking over while the fat cats in Wall Street and in Whitehall reap the financial benefits society has to offer.

I also saw also Sir Ken Robinson's 20-minute talk at the world TED conference which I thought was outstanding. In it he argues that we are failing our kids by not recognising their talents. He mentions Picasso saying that all children are born artists and it is us who educate them away from their natural creativity and artistry. We do this by creating rigid boundaries for them stigmatising the making of mistakes and telling them that,, when they leave school, they should go for a job that will be safe and not a job they will necessarily be any good at or enjoy. Again, we return to the subject of soft skills.

Isn't it about time that something major was done about educating children using a system that hasn't changed in 150 years, certainly since the advent of the Industrial revolution?

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