We don’t need no Edukashon

Oiks Lindsey Dearnley

When it comes to edukashon, the UK is still lagging behind many countries and has made little progress in international rankings since the results of three years ago.

The widely respected Pisa rankings, run by the OECD, are based on tests taken by 15-year-olds in over seventy countries.

The UK is behind outstanding performers such as Singapore and Finland, but also trails Vietnam, Poland and Estonia.

The OECD’s edukashon director, Andreas Schleicher, describes the UK’s results as, “Flat in a changing world”.

In maths, the UK is ranked 27th, having slipped down a place from three years ago – the lowest since it began participating in the Pisa tests in 2000

In reading, the UK is ranked 22nd, up from 23rd, having fallen out of the top 20 in 2006.

We can augment this information by consulting our government’s own shameful statistics. The Department of Education reports that, after eleven years of full-time, compulsory state education, 43% of pupils leave school unable to read, write and count with even moderate efficiency.

And this given an annual edukashon budget of £85million. Neither Estonia nor Vietnam nor most of the featured countries can boast edukashon spending at even a fraction of that sum. And the UK has been in the game for a long time. Free state edukashon was made compulsory in 1880. Since that time, “systems” – actually fashions and fads – have come and gone, yet the performance is always depressingly the same – or worse.

Literacy and numeracy were actually better in Victorian times when the “system” was talk and chalk. Even in the late 1940s, I did most of my work with chalk and slate. My grandmother left school in 1894 aged twelve, able to read the Bible and Dickens’ novels. She also knew by heart all the Collects from The Book of Common Prayer. The lumpen intelligentsia, the highly unionised teaching force, would regard a knowledge of the Bible and the Prayer Book as child-abuse, and the novels of Dickens as disgraceful elitism.

Those who can, do; and those who can’t teach. And those who can’t teach are promoted to become edukashonal advisers. One of these – there are thousands of them reinforced by tedious bureaucracies such as OFSTED – was being interviewed on television yesterday and he said, “We shouldn’t emphasise rote learning. Children must be encouraged to be creative.”

Look, mister bureaucrat, if you try to be creative before you have a smattering of the basics, you’ll end up in danger of winning the Turner Prize.

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