Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Et Tu, Education?

I've mentioned before that the NHS is a festering mound of inefficiency and not fit for purpose.

It's not surprising seeing as it is 60 years old. Things move on, and the NHS simply hasn't. Technology has improved immensely and so you may well see quite a few new gadgets being utilised at NHS hospitals, but how many times do you also see the local paper advertising a fund-raising drive to buy a new scanner or some such? There is never a fund-raising drive to pay for a new Programme Development Manager or for an Outreach Worker. Nope, these are paid for fully from your NI contributions.

A reminder, it is 60 years old. In any other area, the NHS would have been pensioned off a long time ago in favour of something more in tune with the 21st Century. The NHS has about as much place in the modern day as Play School, Opportunity Knocks, and Grandstand.

The problem is that the NHS is controlled mostly by those that wish to perpetuate a failing system for their own gain, and backed by a public that haven't the imagination to see that there could be something better. When the aforementioned shows were losing viewers, they were replaced by something better to save the jobs of the execs that saw the failing viewing figures. With the NHS, the vast majority of users don't know that there is an alternative, simply because they have never been presented with one. It's akin to the BBC just spewing out Bagpuss and Pebble Mill, whether anyone watched or not, simply because there is no discernible competition.

The same can be said about our education system. It's great that every kid is given free schooling but why is it a necessity that the Government provides it (with conditions), especially when idiots like this guy, who has banned red ink for marking homework, are in charge of our childrens' learning.

Headmaster Richard Sammonds said: ‘Red pen can be quite demotivating for children. It has negative, old-school connotations of “See me” and “Not good enough”.

‘We are no longer producing clerks and bookkeepers. We are trying to provide an education for children coming into the workforce in the 21st century.

Another nutter, quite obviously, one might think. But no ...

At Hutton Cranswick Community Primary School in Driffield, East Yorkshire, the Marking and Feedback Policy reads: ‘Marking should be in a different colour or medium from the pupil’s writing but should not dominate. For this reason, red ink is inappropriate.’

Shirley Clarke, an associate of the Institute of Education, said: ‘Banning red ink is a reaction to years of children having nothing but red over their work and feeling demoralised. When children, especially young children, see every single spelling mistake covered in red, they can feel useless and give up.’

Sorry if I appear rude, but please. Fuck off.

This looks like another sacred cow that needs shaking up. I mean, seriously, what are these people saying to our kids? That it is OK to fail? That making mistakes is perfectly acceptable and shouldn't be highlighted in case it offends?

I have two kids myself and am in the fortunate position, having enjoyed a very good education myself, of being able to flesh out some pretty poor teaching from the comprehensive system. Not all will be so lucky. In fact, the education system as it is, encourages inequalities that punish kids born into less able households.

So what's the difference between that and private schooling? Not a lot as far as I can see. In fact, the system we have is far more disadvantageous than that proposed by Mark Wadsworth.

... if you give all school age children a voucher worth £5,000-plus, then as far as I can see, everybody wins. It would shave £20 billion off the schools budget (overheads and waste are enormous) so the taxpayer's happy; wealthy people with kids at private school are laughing because they no longer have to pay twice for education (once for the 'free' places they don't use and again in cold hard cash); the not-so-wealthy can now afford private education and children of poor families who can't afford much of a top-up to the vouchers still have a much wider choice of school - even if it's only a choice of state run schools without top-up fees.

In my business, I daily meet extremely genuine people who truly care for their kids' education. Their choices, however, are limited to what the state has decreed for them. Much like the NHS, they would never hark for a privatisation of schools as they are conditioned to fear it. Even though, like health, they would be put in charge.

The ones I know are assiduous in poring through league tables to choose a good school for their kids. But, they are firstly limited in their choice by location, and then further stymied as the final decision is not theirs but that of the local education authority. Yet they seem happy with this arrangement. Quite simply because the idea of free education is so persuasive that they would instantly vote against anyone who nay-sayed it, even though a voucher system would still be essentially free to the user, but give power of decision-making to the parent.

All the current system does is foster a bucket-load of parasitic 'red ink banners' and further destroys the intellect of our future.

Personally, I'm not that fussed. I know full well that my kids are going to be fine as I am able to fill in the gaps of their education, in fact, they will no doubt have a distinct advantage. I'm not that smug, though, to think that the failures of a very imperfect comprehensive system of schooling are not going to affect me personally in the future at some point.

If nothing else, can you imagine a kid who is easily offended by a bit of red pen being applied to his schoolwork being voted in as an MP? It can't be too far away at this rate. (Come to think of it, Ed Balls could be the one that proves my point)

There has to be a better way of doing things, surely.

1 comment:

Mark Wadsworth said...

Ta for link.

Anecdotal, while we're on the topic: I bumped into the mum of one of my son's friends from his previous (state) school today and she was nearly in tears. She'd been thinking about selling up and moving back to Poland but left it too late. Their house is down 20%-plus in value, the Zloty has strengthened from 7 to the £ to 3.8 to the £ (so in Zloty terms, they have lost half their wealth in two years), and to top it all, her son's state school is S*H*I*T.

She used to be a teacher in Poland and now works as a teaching assistant so she knows how bad things are. She asked me why they had let things slide like this - when I admitted I didn't know, she said the only rational explanation is that The Righteous do it on purpose.

She then regaled me with a tale of her nephew who went to an ordinary state secondary school in an ordinary town back in Poland who has now been (provisionally) accepted to study engineering ... at Cambridge University.

Truly, one weeps for one's country.