Western education

The state of education across the world

Re: Western education

Postby Maxwell » 10 Jan 2013, 15:40

Andreas wrote:I wouldn’t go so far as to describe the system as child abuse; “frequent and widespread neglect” might be a better phrase.

Agreed. "Abuse" implies an intent to cause harm and imputing intent without evidence weakens a case. Focus on the harm and its cause.
Maxwell
 
Posts: 24
Joined: 19 Sep 2012, 21:08

Re: Western education

Postby Paul » 10 Jan 2013, 22:23

Rachel wrote: To be honest, I am against the 11 plus grammer school system in the way it existed in England. I see arguments for it both in this thread and also in other threads like the one Robert is writing about his Grammer school education and I should properly argue and discuss it but I have been a bit lazy about it. It's been argued to death a million times before on the web and in newspapers. I am also getting over a bug at the moment which makes my cognitive thinking and writing more sloppy than usual.

FWIW The reasons I am against the Grammer School system is:

1) The number of Grammer School places were too small. In some regions, like where I grew up, it was made that only 1 child in a whole class could go to Grammer school. So even if there happened to be more than one bright child that passed the exam, the teachers could only pick one to go to Grammer School. The rest were failures. I think that is awful.

2)The Secondary Moderns were often rubbish.
In my own Secondary school, one of the teachers said "I liked it better when we were a Secondary Modern because we didn't have to teach O-Levels or GSCSE's or A-Levels and we didn't have to work so hard. I just did what I liked with the class."
She actually said that. I am paraphrasing her but she was honest and really said it.

3)I think that even if someone is not a complete genius or even not particularly bright, they should be allowed to get an academic education over a practical one if both they and their parents really truly want it. I think the average person pays enough taxes for state education to have their choice catered to - within reason of course.

The percentage of children receiving a Grammer elite education was very small but even if it they expanded the number to 40% or even 70% of children I would only support Grammer Schools if the Secondary Moderns and Technical school were top notch. I need a plumber, baker or carpenter even more than I need a professor.

Yes, I know the current model of one size fits all is terrible but I don't like the old model the way it was.


I have to disagree with your reasoning Rachel. I'm Paul by the way, not Robert <w>

1. It isn't/wasn't the fault of the Grammar School system per se that there weren't enough of those schools. That's like saying a good idea wasn't implemented enough, so we should scrap the idea totally. If we can't fulfill demand for all (who qualify), then we should satisfy none who do. This can't be right. You've gone from an aggrieved position on behalf of some, to the total withdrawal of that facility for all because it 'isn't fair'.

Now I agree it isn't fair and the situation seems then also to have been what's now called a 'postcode lottery'. In other words, if you lived in a certain area and there wasn't a surfeit of grammar schools in that area then, due to the restricted supply, there may not have been enough to go round. Regrettable yes, but that is the way of the world, in all manner of things.

I wonder why there were not enough grammar schools in certain areas? In my case, I had a choice of four! Three were co-educational and the one I attended was boys only. Correspondingly, there was also an all-girls grammar school, so the girls had a choice of four too. All but one of them was in the town of Bolton alone. That doesn't mean you would automatically get in. There was an entrance exam for at least some of the schools and this seemed mandatory (in my case) if one lived outside the immediate catchment area. So in other words, I didn't go to the nearest grammar school (to home). I always presumed it would be like this in other areas of the UK, in typical childhood naivete and have never considered the matter since. But think - Bolton, Lancs is as working-class an area (by tradition) as they come, but yet they had plenty of good grammar schools.

Note one may have to travel too. My school was about 8 miles away, so a 16 mile round trip per day, on four buses in total, in all weathers.

I can only think it comes down to the attitude and efficiency of the local education authority for major shortfalls in the system. Back in my day, when things worked properly (ahem), the Education Authorities were administered by County Councils, Lancashire being mine. I do suspect that since then the endless sub-divisions and chopping into smaller parts (and endless boundary changes) hasn't helped whatsoever, except maybe in the number of bureaucrats employed by the increasingly hopeless system!

2. The Secondary Moderns might have been rubbish, but that's not the fault of the grammar schools. They may have been the last beacons of hope. If something at the lower end of a scale isn't performing so well, I can't agree that one can then somehow blame the better performing upper level and thence consider it should be eliminated itself. It all seems somewhat vengeful and practically it does nothing to raise anyone's standards.

Similar doctrines exist with regard to wealth and assets. They're called Communism and co! I know that's not what you meant Rachel.

3. People who may not have been over-intelligent or academic weren't permitted to go to grammar school. That's all. But they were given an academic education, not a 'practical one' as you put it. (I take it you mean by that an education based on crafts and such skills?)

(The idea of craft-based eduation has been booted around by various governments, most noisily by New Labour, but none have ever taken up the idea properly - or at all. Thank goodness actually - it would be a monumental failure in typical modern British fashion and rinse away an eye-watering amount of taxpayers' money. Not least on bureaucrats!)

I accept the comprehensive academic education may not have been that good, but again - hardly the fault of the schools that were doing the job well - the grammar schools.

3. I agree that pupils and parents should, to a large degree be able to choose an academic education, but what if Johnny really is poor at academia? What is the point of anything beyond basic maths and English for such people? By all means allow them to develop art or musical skills if they have them, or concentrate on sporting things (there's money in it after all) but what's the point of even attempting algebra, dynamics or chemical reaction? These are the extreme cases of course, the opposite of the 'elite' cases.

The cases you mention where children could (or should) have gone to grammar schools, but there weren't enough places is perplexing to me. Did these pupils who missed out pass an eleven-plus exam? What about the single pupil who was selected? On what basis was that determined? Are you not talking about the pupils who just didn't quite make the grade? On a better day they may have done? Well, any government or authority has to draw the line somewhere and there will always be borderline cases, but I believe one has to stick to the rules.

There has always been the case of the 'late-developers' (academically), presuming they do exist. The children who suddenly surge ahead aged 13 or 14 and would (on that better day) have been attending a grammar school and doing well. I suppose such people do exist though I do find it curious that a person doesn't have the IQ at 10 or 11 that they subsequently have at 14. But again, how can a government forsee this and provide a best scenario for every single case? Besides, it can't be rocket science to identify such pupils before the O level years and, if deemed appropriate, such puils could have been shoe-horned into grammar schools as mid-entrants.

4. The percentage of grammar school attendees was small (as was once universities) but that's because ability is small. It's a painful but natural fact. Three pupils, (me and two girls) from thirty passed the eleven plus in my class - that's just 10%. A healty 10 percent though I say. It's not a trifling figure. In the previous year to me, three pupils (all boys these) also passed. In the year previous to that, two boys passed (not sure of girls). I remember these because they were held up as immediate examples (rivals?).

So it seemed remarkably consistent and there must be a natural reason for that. I refuse to believe there was chicanery back then and puils were cheated. Ten percent is about what you got, year in year out.

I can't agree that these 10% of bright pupils be denied a better education because the lesser education is not deemed 'top notch'. On whose judgement would that lie anyway? And if the comprehensives (or whatever) were top-notch, then what descriptive would we have to give the grammar schools and how would we live up to that? There's only so much skill around (see 10%) so there can only be so much excellence actually being taught ..... and it was concentrated in the grammmar schools. That's quite a natural state of affairs.


So the whole problems seems (seemed) not to be the grammar schools but the comprehensives themselves. The best solution is surely to improve those, not penalise the grammars for the comprehensives' faults? A question of good teachers I admit, but most importantly a question of gov't policy and moreover, a question of societal attitude in general.

I think we're just going to have to accept that the Socialists are to blame and have permeated everything. Education was their foremost target and how they have succeeded.

There's no doubt a great amount of belief (not necessarily here) that the original Elementary Schools, and then Secondary Modern and then Comprehensive Schools were all (and ALWAYS) poor quality. That the schools traditionally and predominantly for the 'masses', the working-class, were token efforts and taught little. I think this is a massive fallacy and a possible lie (an ignorant one) used by lefties to point to some 'class war' and to use as a means of resentment.

How could this be when we were once the most skilled nation on Earth and built the known world? How would all the inventions, but then crucially the manufacture have taken place? Isambard Kingdom Brunel might have designed some neat stuff but he wasn't the one who built them! Frank Whittle invented the jet engine but he didn't produce one himself. These people knew however that the great rank and file were bright folk, not just able to use their hands. They were well educated enough and extremely conversant in Maths and Science, as well as having a high literacy and a broad general knowledge. Yet they only went to 'common' schools. My grandfather went down a coal-mine aged just 14 and stayed down one until he was 60, with just a six-year break to squeeze a World War into (he was in India and then, incongruously, the Orkney Islands). But he could add, subtract, multiply and divide in his head with astonishing ability, had read all manner of books, was a repository of facts and had the most lovely hand-writing. He wasn't the only 'old boy' I remember being this capable. Most of them were!
Paul
 
Posts: 512
Joined: 02 Aug 2011, 11:37
Location: Lancashire, England.

Re: Western education

Postby Mike » 11 Jan 2013, 01:29

Paul, the kinds of issues you're talking about are quite current in Australian education at the moment as well.

The term here is "selective schools" rather than grammar schools. When I went through high school there was a catchment area for selective schools and if you weren't within the area, and there was no other selective school to which you could apply, even though you'd passed the exam, then tough. This was, in fact, exactly what happened to me, and as a result I ended up going to a private school on a scholarship (at which I got a perfectly good education, so no complaints there).

Eventually they realised the anomaly of this and did two things: (1) created more selectives (or rather, turned existing comprehensive schools into selectives or semi-selectives), and (2) abolished the regional restrictions. Now from an a priori point of view I'd be in favour of both of these developments, but this is where ideology rubs up against certain realities of the Australian situation.

Firstly, as regards (1), almost every school at which discipline was going down the drain applied to re-invent itself as a semi-selective school (i.e. a school which took a certain number of selective students), since this had improved discipline and morale at quite a few schools already. The government, however, became quite prolix in granting such applications, with the result that we now have 44 (at last count, and rising) selective schools in New South Wales, not even counting the "niche" schools (designated as artistic or sporting "centres of excellence" or whatever is the term du jour) which are in fact selectives in all but name. The result of this has been that the remaining comprehensive schools have no real chance of retaining any morale since all of the students who want to learn have been creamed off. In practice, this has had a deleterious effect on education in the state.

The problem with (2) is more subtle, and more local. An inevitable concomitant of the abolition of the regional restrictions was the creation of a sort of hierarchy within the selective school system. And now up to 90% of the students at the "top" selectives are of East Asian background, since these are the cultures that value education enormously but, being fairly recent migrants, generally aren't able to afford private schools. And they often travel for up to two hours to get to these schools.

What's happened as a result of this is that Anglo-Celtic parents are totally put off the selective schools (the word "ghetto" typically appears when they talk about them). This is, of course, not remotely the fault of the Asian-heritage students and their parents, but take it from an insider, the system would work infinitely better if the regional restrictions were re-instated with every area of the state within a catchment for at least one selective. But for a number of reasons I won't go into, it is in the government's interest not to re-instate them.
Mike
 
Posts: 402
Joined: 01 Aug 2011, 11:08
Location: Australia

Re: Western education

Postby Caleb » 14 Jan 2013, 08:52

Mike: I'd be interested in you writing more on your last point, or do you not want to for professional reasons?

On another point, I agree that selective schools (and private schools) probably do completely undermine the morale within the general government system. What's the solution to that though? People who care about education are going to find ways around a system they see as inadequate, be it through selectives, or a more money-oriented approach. For example, I know that in Victoria at least, the major growth in the private sector has been in low cost private schools (I suspect the average East Asian parent probably doesn't care whether their kids' school has a rowing team, for instance). Another phenomenon is that there are certain good government schools (I'm specifically thinking about McKinnon Secondary College, but there are others too) that aren't selective, but have a catchment area. The net effect has been to drive housing prices in the catchment areas up considerably. Such schools are defacto private schools, basically. Another possibility is that, if they don't already exist, East Asian style cram schools would pop up to fill the void.

On the topic of cram schools, this is another part of the myth of Asian education systems. There's an educational arms race in East Asia such that if you don't have money to spend on extra-curricular classes, your kids are probably out of the race. I remember reading an Economist article last year that stated that Koreans spend some crazy percentage of household income on extra-curricular classes.
Caleb
 
Posts: 865
Joined: 20 Oct 2011, 04:44

Re: Western education

Postby Mike » 14 Jan 2013, 10:21

Caleb wrote:Mike: I'd be interested in you writing more on your last point, or do you not want to for professional reasons?


It always looks good for the government system to have as many state schools as possible in the top ten of that "league table" the papers publish of the HSC results. Obviously, the selectives are more likely to achieve this if they can cream the best students from everywhere, not just their local area.

Personally I think the publication of that list isn't very helpful anyway.

Caleb wrote:On another point, I agree that selective schools (and private schools) probably do completely undermine the morale within the general government system. What's the solution to that though?


Yeah, it's a tricky one. At a drinks break at a school cricket match (at which all the problems of the world can be solved, naturally), the coach of the other school's team and I had a good chat about exactly this issue; he teaches at one of the better comprehensives, I teach at a selective, so we came at it from both sides, so to speak. What we both concluded was that a return to old-style streaming of classes, combined with a scaling back of the number of selectives, would be a good start. Unfortunately on the issue of discipline the horse has largely bolted thanks to thirty-odd years of progressivist nonsense, and this is part of what drives the rush to private schools.

I've got nothing against private schools per se (although the amount of government assistance they receive in Australia is a scandal). I don't think a system like that in Finland, where the schooling is 100% public, would ever work in the Australian environment. What's happened in New Zealand is quite interesting, in that they've more or less "nationalised" the private schools while allowing them to retain their "special status", or some such. Apparently this has worked tolerably well (although at great cost to the populace, I would imagine), but the private school lobby is too entrenched in Australia for that to be practicable (or even desirable).

Caleb wrote:On the topic of cram schools, this is another part of the myth of Asian education systems. There's an educational arms race in East Asia such that if you don't have money to spend on extra-curricular classes, your kids are probably out of the race. I remember reading an Economist article last year that stated that Koreans spend some crazy percentage of household income on extra-curricular classes.


Yeah, this is why I always look askance at articles that point to East Asian education systems as worthy of emulation for various reasons. There are plenty of factors that such hagiographic pieces never take into account.
Mike
 
Posts: 402
Joined: 01 Aug 2011, 11:08
Location: Australia

Re: Western education

Postby Elliott » 14 Jan 2013, 10:35

Mike wrote:What we both concluded was that a return to old-style streaming of classes, combined with a scaling back of the number of selectives, would be a good start.

I have to say that I disagree with this. Streaming was done in my school yet the level was still low, and that was because of the presence of lower-ability pupils. They dominated the school's environment, lowering the tone in general.

I've no doubt that you know (much!) more about education than I do, but I just find it hard to imagine that a school like the one I went to could ever compete with a selective school. A bright child will always be ground down at a mixed-ability school, and brought down to the average if possible. I really think it's a matter of the environment; how can a bright child hope to learn about Descartes and Beethoven when the general tone around the school is Puff Daddy and Russell Brand?
Elliott
 
Posts: 1800
Joined: 31 Jul 2011, 22:32
Location: Edinburgh

Re: Western education

Postby Mike » 14 Jan 2013, 11:55

Elliott wrote:I just find it hard to imagine that a school like the one I went to could ever compete with a selective school.


In terms of overall results mixed-ability schools won't be able to compete with the selectives, for sure. But in my view it's important for there to be a core of engaged and moderately academically capable students at any school if it's to avoid becoming a case of abandon-hope-all-ye-who-enter; sadly, this has happened in some parts of New South Wales because the selective system has become too unwieldy. They have managed things better in Victoria (the Australian Victoria of course, not the Canadian one!) although if anything the opposite problem exists there, i.e. too few selective schools and a massive commute for some of the able students who are ambitious enough to apply to them.

Elliott wrote:I really think it's a matter of the environment; how can a bright child hope to learn about Descartes and Beethoven when the general tone around the school is Puff Daddy and Russell Brand?


Very much so, and however vapid and narcissistic the prevailing culture that surrounds the students may be, the tone set by the teachers can make a significant difference in this regard. It's only in recent years, for instance, that I've come to realise the importance of dressing properly for the classroom. As my wife will tell you, I'm something of a reformed slob in that regard, although the reform process is not quite complete.
Mike
 
Posts: 402
Joined: 01 Aug 2011, 11:08
Location: Australia

Re: Western education

Postby Caleb » 15 Jan 2013, 00:38

Mike wrote:
Caleb wrote:Mike: I'd be interested in you writing more on your last point, or do you not want to for professional reasons?


It always looks good for the government system to have as many state schools as possible in the top ten of that "league table" the papers publish of the HSC results. Obviously, the selectives are more likely to achieve this if they can cream the best students from everywhere, not just their local area.

Personally I think the publication of that list isn't very helpful anyway.


I see what you mean.

Caleb wrote:On another point, I agree that selective schools (and private schools) probably do completely undermine the morale within the general government system. What's the solution to that though?


Yeah, it's a tricky one. At a drinks break at a school cricket match (at which all the problems of the world can be solved, naturally), the coach of the other school's team and I had a good chat about exactly this issue; he teaches at one of the better comprehensives, I teach at a selective, so we came at it from both sides, so to speak. What we both concluded was that a return to old-style streaming of classes, combined with a scaling back of the number of selectives, would be a good start. Unfortunately on the issue of discipline the horse has largely bolted thanks to thirty-odd years of progressivist nonsense, and this is part of what drives the rush to private schools.


I see what you mean here too. I'm not sure whether I am in agreement with you or Elliott on this issue.

I've got nothing against private schools per se (although the amount of government assistance they receive in Australia is a scandal). I don't think a system like that in Finland, where the schooling is 100% public, would ever work in the Australian environment. What's happened in New Zealand is quite interesting, in that they've more or less "nationalised" the private schools while allowing them to retain their "special status", or some such. Apparently this has worked tolerably well (although at great cost to the populace, I would imagine), but the private school lobby is too entrenched in Australia for that to be practicable (or even desirable).


I don't think the state funding of private schools is wrong. Those parents pay taxes too, so why shouldn't some of their taxes come back to them through funding of their schools?

Caleb wrote:On the topic of cram schools, this is another part of the myth of Asian education systems. There's an educational arms race in East Asia such that if you don't have money to spend on extra-curricular classes, your kids are probably out of the race. I remember reading an Economist article last year that stated that Koreans spend some crazy percentage of household income on extra-curricular classes.


Yeah, this is why I always look askance at articles that point to East Asian education systems as worthy of emulation for various reasons. There are plenty of factors that such hagiographic pieces never take into account.


They're changing the system radically in Taiwan right now. They used to have big exams at the end of junior and senior high school here. Basically all senior high schools and universities were, in theory, selective. Students often travel quite long distances, and many even live on campus (we have students who live on campus, but that's because we live in a remote area and some students also come from extremely poor families). The top senior high schools were extremely difficult to get into. A lot of parents really complained about the system though because the pressure on students was enormous, though parents often contributed to it (some parents pretty much demanded that their students stay at school until 7:30pm or so, and they're usually at school during vacation too). You could actually see the kids get completely ground down by the middle of year eight, and by year nine, they were exhausted.

Now they're moving to a less selective system. I don't know the full details though. Another thing they are doing is streaming students into normal and remedial classes, though some schools already did something like this. Students in the bottom 30% of the nation (which translates into about the bottom 70% of our school) end up in the remedial stream.

I believe there are all sorts of other changes afoot here too.
Caleb
 
Posts: 865
Joined: 20 Oct 2011, 04:44

Re: Western education

Postby Caleb » 15 Jan 2013, 00:50

Mike wrote:Very much so, and however vapid and narcissistic the prevailing culture that surrounds the students may be, the tone set by the teachers can make a significant difference in this regard. It's only in recent years, for instance, that I've come to realise the importance of dressing properly for the classroom. As my wife will tell you, I'm something of a reformed slob in that regard, although the reform process is not quite complete.


When I worked in the West, I used to always wear a tie. When I first came to Taiwan, I didn't because no one else at my school did either (we had eight foreign teachers, not to mention the dozens of Taiwanese teachers), except the principal on special occasions, and the weather in summer is brutally hot and humid. When I moved to my current school, I started wearing a tie again to try to appear more professional. I'm the only person in the whole school who does so, and many of my colleagues dress extremely casually to the point of absurdity. My students find it funny. Our classrooms are not air-conditioned, and they're basically concrete boxes (I also live below the Tropic of Cancer now). In summer, I pour sweat.

My students find it odd that I wear a tie, but I try to set an example for them. I live in a farming community, and many of my students come from incredibly poor families, some from very remote mountain communities. Many of them have never been more than thirty kilometres from where they live, and I may very well be the only person they have ever met wearing a tie. I may be the only person they have ever met who does a whole lot of things.

There are nine foreign teachers in our county (I'm one of only two who have rural placements), and more in the rest of the country. Of the eight others, there is one other teacher who dresses formally (he actually wears quite expensive clothes), for the same reasons that I do. I know that the other foreign teachers think we're both a bit odd/uptight.
Caleb
 
Posts: 865
Joined: 20 Oct 2011, 04:44

Re: Western education

Postby Mike » 15 Jan 2013, 02:39

Caleb wrote:I don't think the state funding of private schools is wrong. Those parents pay taxes too, so why shouldn't some of their taxes come back to them through funding of their schools?


Ah, but you see it's gone further than that in Oz. What happens is that, due to some subtle tweaking of the system, the elite private schools are actually getting even more state funding than government schools. Incredible, but true. To my mind this is an appalling waste of government money (not to mention a strange skewing of the market).

Of course the parents of students going to private schools are entitled to some tax relief due to their lessening the pressure on the public system, and in my opinion a tax rebate for such parents (similar to the private health cover rebate) would be the fairest, not to mention the cheapest and most efficient, way of addressing the problem.

Caleb wrote:They're changing the system radically in Taiwan right now. They used to have big exams at the end of junior and senior high school here. Basically all senior high schools and universities were, in theory, selective. Students often travel quite long distances, and many even live on campus (we have students who live on campus, but that's because we live in a remote area and some students also come from extremely poor families). The top senior high schools were extremely difficult to get into. A lot of parents really complained about the system though because the pressure on students was enormous, though parents often contributed to it (some parents pretty much demanded that their students stay at school until 7:30pm or so, and they're usually at school during vacation too). You could actually see the kids get completely ground down by the middle of year eight, and by year nine, they were exhausted.

Now they're moving to a less selective system. I don't know the full details though. Another thing they are doing is streaming students into normal and remedial classes, though some schools already did something like this. Students in the bottom 30% of the nation (which translates into about the bottom 70% of our school) end up in the remedial stream.

I believe there are all sorts of other changes afoot here too.


Sounds like it will be interesting to watch developments there.

To my mind education is one of those areas where the appropriate choice of system is very much dependent on the type of society you're dealing with (homogeneous v. heterogeneous, predominantly religious v. predominantly secular, etc.). It's certainly not one-size-fits-all.
Mike
 
Posts: 402
Joined: 01 Aug 2011, 11:08
Location: Australia

Re: Western education

Postby Caleb » 15 Jan 2013, 03:09

Mike wrote:
Caleb wrote:I don't think the state funding of private schools is wrong. Those parents pay taxes too, so why shouldn't some of their taxes come back to them through funding of their schools?


Ah, but you see it's gone further than that in Oz. What happens is that, due to some subtle tweaking of the system, the elite private schools are actually getting even more state funding than government schools. Incredible, but true. To my mind this is an appalling waste of government money (not to mention a strange skewing of the market).

Of course the parents of students going to private schools are entitled to some tax relief due to their lessening the pressure on the public system, and in my opinion a tax rebate for such parents (similar to the private health cover rebate) would be the fairest, not to mention the cheapest and most efficient, way of addressing the problem.


Strange. I'm a user pays guy, so I think if it's justified because such parents pay more tax overall, then fair enough.

To my mind education is one of those areas where the appropriate choice of system is very much dependent on the type of society you're dealing with (homogeneous v. heterogeneous, predominantly religious v. predominantly secular, etc.). It's certainly not one-size-fits-all.


Definitely. It's silly for people to suggest that Australia, America or anywhere else could just adopt either the Finnish or South Korean models. Neither would work at all in Australia, though there are probably lessons to be learnt from other systems. Things need to be adapted to local conditions.
Caleb
 
Posts: 865
Joined: 20 Oct 2011, 04:44

Re: Western education

Postby Rachel » 19 Jan 2013, 18:00

Hello Paul,
I wanted to answer your post earlier but I had some health problems. I'm sorry for getting your name wrong. I don't know why I thought you were Robert. :)

What was bad about the old system is not that the selective Grammer schools were bad. It was that many Secondary Moderns were bad.

You're also right about it being wrong to destroy an elite minority of good schools just because the rest of the system wasn't good.

The cases you mention where children could (or should) have gone to grammar schools, but there weren't enough places is perplexing to me. Did these pupils who missed out pass an eleven-plus exam? What about the single pupil who was selected? On what basis was that determined? Are you not talking about the pupils who just didn't quite make the grade? On a better day they may have done?

I was told by my teachers in Middle School that in theory - if 4 children in a class happened to get all the answers right and be complete geniuses, in principle only one or two could be picked to go to the Grammer School because the there were so few places.
Those were the cases I meant where a child could and should have gone to a Grammer School and didn't.

The percentage of grammar school attendees was small (as was once universities) but that's because ability is small. It's a painful but natural fact.


True.
I suppose a lot of my opposition to the Grammer schools is emotional. I know I would never get into the top 10% that got to Grammer School.
I would have gone to my Secondary Modern that didn't even offer a single O-Level. If I assume that the O-levels you sat were a bit above the A-levels I did in 1995. I still think I could definitely manage 1 or 2 of them. But under the old system, people like me got none.

...I can't agree that these 10% of bright pupils be denied a better education because the lesser education is not deemed 'top notch'.


Of course you don't deny 10% of bright children a better education but it's a bad system if the other 90% get something rubbish.
You also said who could judge what is "top notch" is.
I can tell you what it is. In Holland's school system they also select pupils by ability. They don't go to separate schools but are just very strictly streamed in a Vocational stream and academic stream.
60% of pupils are on the vocational pathway. In the vocational pathway they get the opportunity to learn languages. (When I was last in Holland in 1995 even the Dutch woman cleaning the toilets spoke perfect English.) In the vocational stream pupils can spend 18 of their 32 lessons in vocational classes doing things like building a mock house with plumbing and electrical installations, running businesses, car repair and mechanics etc.
They have equal funding to the academic pupils. The Dutch seem very serious about their non academic pupils in the way the Secondary Moderns weren't.

My own nephew is learning disabled. They have put him in a special class here in Israel. Again I would call his special education near top notch. He's age 9 but is studying about the same level as his normal 7 year old brother. The thing is the teachers seem very serious about getting him basically literate and numerate, which is the main thing we want for him. I can't imagine a teacher of his saying "it's easier because the children are not clever and I can teach what I like." like my ex Secondary Modern school teacher said to us.

I agree with the rest of what you wrote. It was interesting reading about your Grandfather's high level of education. However, he would have been educated before the 2nd World War, before the Tripartite system had been introduced. So it's not fully revelevent to what we're arguing about. I understand the point you make about him, that education given to working class people in the past isn't always as bad as we get told.
Rachel
 
Posts: 292
Joined: 03 Aug 2011, 10:14
Location: Israel

Re: Western education

Postby Paul » 23 Jan 2013, 14:01

Thanks for the very good reply Rachel. I'm sorry of course to hear you have been unwell.

We agree then that the Secondary Modern schools weren't that good, although some were doubtless better than others. On the whole though, not good enough. Inevitably then, the decline had already begun with this system, although it's also obvious that in any two-tier system, the lower tier isn't going to be as good as the higher, by the very nature of such things. The problem really is that the lower tier of education sunk so low (and has more or less submerged entirely since it seems) that it became near useless to those that underwent that education.

I suppose one could say there's only so much quality to go round and by which I mean the number of very good teachers. The best ones inevitably gravitated to and found employment within the grammar school system. Like today (even more so) the remaining teachers were progressively bad (worse) and so unable to teach better. The curriculum and the absence of O level (higher quality) exams obviously is a big factor though too. But again, like is mentioned more today, if the teachers themselves weren't that highly educated or informed (which is not to say they were unintelligent per se) then the standards become incrementally lower with each passing year. By now, it seems that many teachers, beginning at primary level and then throughout the system just aren't equipped to teach beyond a certain level.

I don't like to dwell on this too much, because it's inevitably demeaning to teachers (and there are a few here on this forum!) and I don't wish to say they are all no good. Neither do I wish to imply I'm cleverer than they are. Still, I've met and observed quite a few teachers over the last 20 years, though only at primary level - my mother worked in a primary school (secretary) for 34 years, retiring in 2010.

I'll not go into all the details but I do remember clearly being spoken to by one teacher (deputy head) about 5 years ago when I was asked about rigging up a projector to be suspended from the roof beams, so as to project onto a 'white-board' on the far wall. Because they wanted the projector above head-height (so the tallest teacher didn't walk into it) and the white-board is at working height, this meant the projector lens was naturally angled downwards. You then get a picture on the screen that is trapezium-shaped (called the 'keystone effect' I learned) and the shape is more pronounced the closer is the projector to the screen (because the angle of dip has to be greater). The further away the projector is placed, the 'keystone effect' picture is lessened, but there's a distance limit related to the power of the projector to achieve good picture resolution. It can easily be explained by a simple diagram on the back of an envelope and is a matter of right-angled triangulation. I went to the office and began to sketch out a rough diagram to show what I meant (because they couldn't see it in their heads) only for the Deputy Head to suddenly say:

'Oh, it does my head in talking to intelligent people'. Then she turned on her heel and left the office!

Can you believe that and this on school premises too? I was dumbstruck almost, whilst Mother's face remained (hilariously) impassive. It wasn't said in a petulant way, more like she just couldn't be too bothered and didn't mind admitting to no interest or understanding of simple geometry. It follows then that there would be no such instruction ever forthcoming to the pupils. I know it's only primary level schooling after all (aged up to 11 however) but I reckon we did basic geometry at Primary School. Certainly when I first attended grammar school I was already familiar with what a right-triangle was, how many degrees were in a revolution and the principles of square, level and parallel. The school entrance exam probably contained questions on such things, though I admit I can't remember if this was so. I would place a good bet on it however.

I just got on with the job and made a best compromise. Once connected up I began to fiddle around with the computer mouse looking to see if there was a way to modify the projected image. Let's have a 'right-click' of the mouse. Lo and behold, a drop-down menu appeared and there it was - 'Keystone effect'. Then there was a facility within the program to negate this effect, though only up to a certain amount. I ended up with the projector where they wanted it and with a more or less 'square' picture.

How did I do this? By investigating within the program, in addition to a good educated best compromise of the projector position in the first place.

How did I know to investigate the program? I didn't really but it was worth a shot. Inquiring mind maybe?

How did I know to right-click? It's a common manoeuvre with computer mice and Windows programs. Everybody knows that. Don't they? Not just computer enginneers, of which I am not one.

How, how, how .... and so on. Amusing, in a vain kind of way but actually pretty tragic.

So there you go. Not all teachers will be like this surely but there's a good chance many of them are.

All the teachers at Grammar School held a degree, some a Masters degree or higher. We were told it was a requisite for employment there, in informal chats with teachers. They would be 'proper' degrees too, in things like Maths, Geography, Science, etc.

Where was I? The slow decline of standards. If one generation isn't as well eductated as the former and some of them go on to be teachers....? The situation then seems to repeat itself in a kind of vicious circle that gets ever tighter or smaller. The wonder is how did standards initially get ever higher, from an initial point of general illiteracy from say the Middle Ages?

It's a long, slow crawl to the building of excellence. Conversely, it's just a few well-placed hammer blows to demolition. This obtains for most things, just like the vandalism, never-to-return, of such things as fine architecture, a favourite subject of TD himself. How woeful it should have been applied to the education of the people.

Your story about the denial of grammar places to deserving pupils because there weren't enough places to go round is very sad. It's never something you want to hear and the difficulty is it's often hard to prove. Obviously, by your time ther weren't enough grammar schools available to satisfy demand (ability), which is pretty obvious ...... because lots of them had closed down or became Comprehensive themselves. That is down to government policy. Remember it was a Labour government (1974 - 1979) under whose watch the system began to be dismantled. I do remember (I was told by parents) the issue being on the manifesto of both parties, with the Conservatives pledging to retain the system should they be re-elected. Quite how serious they may have been or how vigourous was their later opposition, I cannot say. I was obviously extremely fortunate to be in the penultimate year of 11-plus exams and entrance to an old, established grammar school.

My grammar school became Comprehensive itself eventually (not sure of exact date - I must check) and two years after I left began admitting .......... girls! So I avoided this by the skin of my teeth too!

As I said in the other thread, I understood the situation in the 1970s to be that all grammar schools presented O levels only as the culmination of 5 year's schooling. They would not offer CSEs. Conversely the comprehensive schools presented CSEs, but there were definitely more than a few cases of pupils being good enough to take the O level instead, in certain subjects. In some cases the family may have had to pay a fee for this to occur, though in others the school itself (rather the LEA) would pay for it. Both situations linger in my memory from things I doubtless heard from friends.

The real problem was that by the 1990s, O levels and CSEs had been merged into GCSEs. It doesn't take a genius to predict that the average standard was then lower than the former higher (O level) standard. This is almost bound to happen no matter what.

I'd like to think you would have passed some O levels Rachel, probably a good few. You know - they weren't that hard. What's more accurate is to say they weren't that easy. It depends how you look at it. I'm pretty sure that more pupils would have grasped extra levels of say, Mathematics, had they been taught so. I have certainly since 'taught' friends of mine certain basic (?) things about geometry or algebra, though they have been adults at the time. It's also obvious they are things that have never been shown to them before ....... unless they paid absolutely no attention at all. Another matter entirely.

Just slightly aside but related to the above: It did seem to me, in fact it was glaringly obvious to quite a large degree, that the discipline levels at comprehensive schools were considerably lower than what I experienced. Uniform, homework, containment (or rather not with comprehensives) within the school grounds at lunch-hour and playtimes and even attendance at school in the first place. It always astonished me how relatively easy it was for comprehensive pupils to 'wag' school on odd days (that is to say commit truancy). There was no possibly system for truancy at Grammar School. You would be instantly caught before the very next day. Your parents would be contacted, you would be whacked and that was that! It was all done by a cast-iron system of the requirement of evidence for absence, preferably before the event, but definitely on the very next day of attendance (in cases of sudden illness) by way of a signed letter from one's parents. In any case, should one be absent, the telephone at home would be ringing by 10.30am and it would be the school wanting to know why Paul wasn't in attendance. You still had to bring a signed letter as well on the next day of attendance. And of course the school managed to obtain the signatures of both parents before you ever officially attended, and kept them on record. So then, any subsequent letters from parents would be scrutinised for forged parental signatures. Quite simple and fairly obvious. Compared to what I remember some kids from comprehensives getting away with, our school seemed like an academy of the FBI. I remember privately thinking that the comprehensive school teachers and admin' must be pretty hopeless really.

The Dutch system you mention sounds interesting or rather more heartening in that it then seems to work - I presume. Like I did say in my other thread, I do recall that it was mooted, though in a very minor way in my day, that the UK think about vocational and craft-based education for pupils who struggled with traditional academia. I agree that the UK should have taken this more seriously and from an early (or earlier) stage than they may have done.

Is this being done now in the UK? I'm too cynical now to believe it will ever be done correctly by this stage in our history. Besides, there are hardly any crafts left (by comparison) and all our industry has all but disappeared.

I did think the idea of Comprehensive Schools was to facilitate 'streaming' in separate classes. Even at the time, I did think this was just another way of tiered systems for those brighter and those less bright, but no doubt watered-down and more confusing. But, if other countries can do these things successfully, then why couldn't we?

I do think that the UK system has remained more regimented, even 'old-fashoned' in this approach to vocational training, despite all the 'progressive' policies. Even as the old grammar school system was being dismantled, we retained a belief in academic education. It's rather surprising in some ways given our once great industries, but then again the industrial training was achieved by way of 3 year (or longer) apprenticeships after the school years, which were themselves exhaustive and very technical. That system has been bulldozed too, along with most of the Technical Colleges. Yes, you really could weep.

Thanks anyway and yes, the working classes were once very adequately educated and very much according to their needs and beyond.
Paul
 
Posts: 512
Joined: 02 Aug 2011, 11:37
Location: Lancashire, England.

Re: Western education

Postby Andreas » 28 Mar 2013, 17:22

This report was shown on television here (in the U.S.) last night, a new low point in pedagogy at a New York school:

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/science/ ... 03-27.html

Of course, the liberal news report takes the view that using "rap music" to teach science is just wonderful. I sincerely hope this idea does not spread.

There are many things one can say about this. Just one point: why do American schools spend so much time and energy trying to coddle the worst students, the ones who don't want to be there, the ones who can't focus attention on anything for more than five minutes, while neglecting the good or average students?
Andreas
 
Posts: 195
Joined: 04 Sep 2012, 22:31

Re: Western education

Postby Gavin » 28 Mar 2013, 18:08

That is unbelievable. And I can't believe they give all the "students" new MacBooks! What a waste of ingenious technology.

Only 4% of African American senior students are proficient in science. Wow. I like they way they call this new idea "science genius" too. It seems that the word "genius" has become completely devalued now to the point of it being meaningless, it is so often wrongly applied. Geniuses are actually very rare.

The more I watched of the report, I thought I was watching a parody news programme like The Day Today, but this was real. I noticed the reporter inserted his own value judgment, calling Wu-Tang Clan "one of the greatest rap groups of all time" - not just one of the most popular.

I thought the black teacher was well-meaning and it is all very well making things relevant to the children, but not if it means sinking to rap. There is undeniably some skillful rhyming in some rap, in my view, but the genre is so steeped in aggression, egotism and dumb values it is too toxic to use now.

Also the teacher started coming out with nonsense like "These young people whose voices have been silenced". In the age of the Internet (with their new Macs!) they have more opportunity than ever to express themselves. One only needs to look at YouTube (sadly) to see this. They probably have too much opportunity to express themselves, actually; they do not have enough to express.

I suppose some would say, re. this idea "Whatever works!", but it seems to me this is saying to the students that science is not interesting in its own right. Science has nothing to do with rap. It does have to do with the wonderful things that science creates.

There are shades of surrendering to barbarism about this project, I think. "Darwin turning in his grave..." says one of the young rappers. Probably.

The trouble is, in the modern world, they'll let them through, they'll probably change the grading system as they've done here so that they pass. They'll be made "professors". But other countries won't do this and we'll lose against them.
Gavin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 3430
Joined: 27 Jul 2011, 18:13
Location: Once Great Britain

PreviousNext

Return to Education

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

cron

User Menu

Login Form

This site costs £100 per year to run and makes no money.

If you would like to make a small contribution to help pay for the web hosting, you can do so here.

Who is online

In total there is 1 user online :: 0 registered, 0 hidden and 1 guest (based on users active over the past 5 minutes)
Most users ever online was 175 on 12 Jan 2015, 18:23

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest
Copyright © Western Defence. All Rights Reserved.