Saturday, August 21, 2010

British education - what a mess!

Here's another reason why I didn't vote Labour over the last few years: specialist schools and academies. Whose barmy idea was it for schools to specialise in the arts, business, science or IT, among other things? Ed Balls was education minister, wasn't he? Well, I wouldn't have voted for him. Children need a broad general education. How can a child who starts to develop an aptitude for science be given the help he or she needs if he or she attends a school that specialises in the arts? Or a budding musician do well in a business school? Most children don't know what they want to be or do until they're past the basics, and what if they find they're in the wrong school then?

Of course, many schools apply for specialist status so they can gain the extra funding that goes with it. I've heard that a school might go for IT status, then when they've got all the PCs they need, switch to another specialisation so that they might get, oh, I don't know, sports equipment? As for academies run by religious organisations, they should never happen.

The result of all this specialisation is that kids may end up with the wrong exam results for the courses they'd really like to do, finding out when it's too late. I bet that happens often. The problem with some faith schools (particularly Muslim ones) is that some kids give more weight to religious teachings than to academic ones. An increasing number of science faculties are finding that some undergraduates reject the theory of evolution, yet expect to study biology or medicine. Crazy!

Watching Dateline London today, I was interested to hear Agnès Poirier talking about the French Baccalauréat. They were discussing the usual media reports about A level results, and whether they've got too easy, or whatever, and the competition for university places. Agnès said that French kids don't get to choose which subjects to take, as British students do. No opting for A levels in your strongest subjects. You do them all, including two foreign languages. They all study philosophy - if only they did that here! Because France is strongly secular country, there's no RE. Not surprising that a small number of British schools are teaching the International Baccalaureate, which the universities like.

Meanwhile, what's the Government doing? Leaving education policy in the hands of politicians with pet projects, such as "free" schools. It's much too important to leave it to them. Ed Balls or Michael Gove - they're as bad as each other. They're both failures.

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