Monday, 5 April 2010

What Is Going on in Scottish Education?

What is happening in Scotland's schools? We've been slipping down the league tables for years now, throwing more and more money at education, yet so many children are moving onto secondary school without having the reading and writing skills to cope.

A few generations ago any child who wasn't educationally fit for the 'big school' would repeat primary 7 until they were able to reach the standard required. That obviously doesn't happen these days because so many are going forward to secondary without the skills to cope.

We all know there is a distinction between primary and secondary education. It is absolutely necessary to have the basic skills of literacy and numeracy to be able to handle the style of teaching in senior schools. Recent statistics showed two-thirds of second year pupils were unable to read properly.

Scotland is introducing a new system of education The Curriculum for Excellence; an interactive style of teaching which includes 'innovation practice, interdisciplinary projects, CPD opportunities, videos and presentations'. The new fourth-year exams will be known as Nationals and the 'gold standard' Highers will be retained. More able pupils will sit National 5s which will be graded externally by the SQA, but others will sit National 4s, assessed by their school.

The CFE adds extra layers of organisational bodies on top of the management board to establish best practice and involve parents, teachers and other stakeholders. These include subject-specific excellence groups, which will develop relevant areas of the curriculum and be made up of, for example, top English teachers and leading Scottish authors. There will also be a so-called 'development group' of stakeholders created, which will contribute to the ongoing working of the CFE.

The aim of this CFE is 'to produce successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors' and the curriculum will be divided into eight subject areas: expressive arts; health and wellbeing; languages; mathematics; religious and moral education; sciences; social studies and technologies. Literacy and numeracy units would be built into English and mathematics qualifications.

How are the two thirds of school children who have difficulty reading going to cope with such a curriculum? The cost of 'special' teachers can drain a school's resources. Who are the stakeholders involved?

I've found one of the stakeholders - Learning Teaching Scotland which is a Scottish government funded quango. They are encouraging teachers to introduce 'citizenship themes' and other matters completely irrelevant to our children learning a basic education in order to survive in today's modern world.

Under the Education for Citizenship scheme developed by these people, pupils would also be encouraged to carry out surveys to highlight 'gender imbalance' in the scientific community.

It is the latest outlandish idea from LTD which was criticised last month after encouraging pupils to act out racist incidents in bizarre role-play exercises.

Nick Seaton, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, said : "This is pure manipulative gobbledegook. There is a clear intention to politicise every subject in a left-wing educational idealogy."

My concern is for the 66% of our children who are unable to read a book with ease yet they will be taught religion and moral education along with health and wellbeing according to the gospel of LTS. . Shouldn't the learning of ABC and 1+1=2 be more important?

I'm doubtful this new system will improve standards and surely that's what change should do. Not only that, it concerns me greatly that we have another quango pumping our children full of information which will do nothing towards their goals of being employed.

Time for the Scottish government to get rid of this PC quango and use those educationalists who believe that literacy and numeracy should be taught within a framework of tried and tested subjects.

With teachers having to cope with the new Curriculum for Excellence and this quango laying down further objectives, is it any wonder so many are refusing to enter the profession once they're qualified or are leaving distinctly disillusioned.

Note: During a conversation last week with a retired teacher who resides in England, she mentioned pupils are now involved in the selection and interviewing of staff at some of the schools in her county. To be honest I thought she was joking - but it seems not. Our education system is falling apart.


JuliaM said...

As that teacher's example shows, this is definitely not a solely Scottish phenomenon...

But there seems to be little willingness in any party to take on the entrenched progressives that have infested education (and the police, local authorities, etc).

Quiet_Man said...

It's because education has been replaced by indoctrination. Instead of learning geography they learn climate change, no history, so they don't learn of their roots and take pride in them, No spelling or grammar, just interpretation, no science, just sexual awareness and political correct gender profiling.

What happened to education is a disgrace and a well planned one too, to get a compliant client state.

Killer said...

They should tell them to speak hoity toity!!!

subrosa said...

You're right Julia, it's not only Scotland. I'd written the piece about Scotland before I read the Mail's article.

subrosa said...

Exactly QM and nobody's saying a word about it. Teachers handed over power years ago because they wanted more money. That's when the rot set in.

Sheila said...

Much of the "debate" regarding the CfE has been along traditional v progressive lines. This is a distraction.

These articles are well worth reading:

The hidden politics of the Curriculum for Excellence

The curriculum of confidence tricks

Emotions and personality not measurable

And on a lighter note :)

Collapse of a decent education is deafening

The consequences of changing to an outcome based system have hardly been discussed at all afaics.

To vastly over simplify, what may be a sensible and useful educational model in many cases(eg a first aid certificate) is unbelievably dangerous when it means state set outcomes for every area of a person's life.

For a quick example here are the CfE's health and wellbeing experiences and outcomes:

The CfE also has to be seen as an integral part of Getting it right for every child, Aka Gathering Information for every citizen - these forms should give you a flavour:

All this is then stored in the eCare system:

This has recently been picked up here:

subrosa said...

Sheila, I really appreciate the time you've spent giving me the links. Off to read them now and do hope others do the same.

Many thanks indeed.

Who's going to stand up and fight this though? Teachers have lost their power don't you think?

Clarinda said...

It's not just the education of our youngsters - but the once prevalent ethos of aspiration, achievement and respect for genuine academic and practical skills that needs to be reawakened and championed. Instead we are held back by the 'inclusion' PC fiasco that mitigates against merit and intellectualism while berating, and, too often, jeopardising the potential of youngsters to succeed in practical/manual skills and work.

By forcing many youngsters to fail in academic subjects (unsuited to their abilities, NB current university 'drop-out' rates etc.) or to falsely believe they have achieved 'success' by fiddling the syllabus and marking critieria or inventing pseudo subjects - we are actually proving the case for the inevitability of the Bell Curve.

Our prisons are stuffed with 18 - 25 year olds failed by a system that cannot teach fundamental skills due to political dogma and educationalista clap-trap.

Witterings From Witney said...

SR, Forgive my self-promotion but your English readers may find the following of interest:

I don't know if you have all this up in Scotland?

Not only has the education system been dumbed down but so have the teachers by adherence to policies such as equality and diversity, the no chastisement brigade etc, etc.

PS - although you did get an 'ology as the word verification!

Allan said...

I wasn't a brain box at school but I did leave primary school with a level of competency which saw me through secondary school. I think today children are made to sit silly exams that no pupil is allowed to fail.

It's a bit like the school which refused to participate in sporting events for fear of upsetting the children who never won!

More emphasis appears to be on school league tables than the quality of the exams pupils are taking.

Alex Porter said...

Have to agree and disagree here Rosie.

You mention pupils who want to prepare themselves for employment. There is a difference between preparing yourself for life and preparing yourself for a job.

What we developed before was an assembly line. There was always a struggle between seeking to understand the world around us and being put through the mincing machine in preparation for factories and mills.

And indeed anything that diverted from what suited industrialists has been branded left-wing nonsense for a long, long time.

So, how do we go forward? Things do have to change and I think the problem is that as a society and a nation we've lost our common sense.

The economists say we are facing the decline in industrial society. Oil is running out and cities will decline once again. People will have to live off and depend on local produce once again. There will be less pressure to compete for wages and to be productive so there will be more free time.

These changes in our near future throw up challenges for educationalists. We require a multi-disciplined approach. One problem is that our specialists do not know enough about other disciplines such as economics to realise this. There is a modal that education should be one-third skills, one-third attitude and one-third knowledge.

Role-play is a fun way to learn, I myself use it to teach English and it's very effective. Students are very open to taking in the information because role-play breaks down tension in the classroom. It also allows students to follow patterns. When you role-play a sentence and your students guess a word they can write that word into a blank on the blackboard and then by looking at the other blanks in the sentence they can try to understand through structure what type of word is missing etc. Naturally they remember words more easily because they are learning by associating them with body language etc.

Teaching is also about understanding how your students learn. Some need to see words written down, some need to hear them, some need to touch objects or see images etc. That is something we should teach teachers.

Instead teachers get told how to teach far too much. Inside us all is the ability to teach but that often gets drummed out of us by having to follow the latest methodology. Instead of using your imagination as a teacher you have always have to think about what you should be doing..

So, how do we project what's required? Self-sufficiency would be useful in a deglobalising world. An understanding of how maths relates to finance so we don't get robbed by the government so easily. One of the great disciplines taught at school when Scotland excelled in the world was philosophy - a lack of understanding in this discipline has created an atomised society where business people can't see themselves in context or even challenge the current economic orthodoxy, the same in many other areas of life.

Alex Porter said...

As for spelling, there is a movement to simplify spelling in English. It is a complicated system and the ability to spell should not be a differentiator of pupils ability. This is clearly an elitist bent and changing the spelling is the best way of dealing with it. In language meaning of words is far more important than spelling.

How many of us are bamboozled by the meaning of words? By focusing on spelling we neglect meaning and yet the meaning of words is what protects and empowers us in life. The manipulation of meaning is our biggest enemy as the use of jargon in politics, law, economics and other disciplines show us. People just give up because meaning doesn't matter. Do people ask what 'quantative easing' means? If they knew all it meant was money printing they'd become very angry. What about 'hope' ala Obama. If people understood that it meant possible change which is not effected by you then maybe they would be so dependent on the next fraudulant messiah..

For me, it is not about going back to what worked because the world has changed and clearly a lot of the changes are nonsensical. For me we should be thinking about less state education. We should be factoring in less time in school.

Pupils are not engaging because they know the style and content are if little value to the real world. Maps change and the world inhabited by previous generations no longer exist and so our notions of what's needed are often of little use unless we can project forward.

Population decline and the downsizing of cities will see young children becoming more interested in farming again. International trade has ground to halt as no-one trusts each other's credit anymore. The collapse of money and currency exchange is going go mean we need to think locally.

Running marketing departments for international businesses is out and designing agricultural machinery is in. Jobs in finance are definately out and jobs in manufacturing are definately in. When all those cheap imports are no longer cheap or stop coming what are the people in your town going to buy? There's the gap in the market. Start making things - that is the new labour market.

And when it comes to money. We've borrowed ourselves silly. The result is that we buy disposable junk to throw it away. The cheapest so that we can keep the debt down so we can borrow more. Everything has turned to junk. Junk food, junkets, junk politics, junk economics, junk education, junk society etc. That's over. We are entering a period where people will learn the value of money again.

If you don't value money employers will not hire you. If you wear quality clothes you'll get places. Jeans and a t-shirt will make you look profligate and stupid. During the great depression people had style. Now you see slobs with their a&se hanging out their denims and a shabby t-shirt going in to eat a big mac and fries. All over. People will want to buy good quality food at affordable prices.

That has to be reflected in schools. When parents are working at Costcutters how will their offspring learn to run a specialist grocery shop? That involves a lot of skills as well as a strong sense of community - nothing that Costcutters requires. Schools should not be educating a generation of Costcutter assistants. You never got a Ferrari out of a Ford assembly plant.

No, there must be a sense that schools are not mincing machines. They should be considered as investments. Long term investments in our localities as well as in our country.

Lots of children now already tell you they want to be farmers. To us this seems strange but the young sense the shifts in the world around them whereas our maps are out of date already.

They sit in classrooms knowing that the lives of the families are not the future and the lessons are not the future. And then we blame them for dropping out because of drugs or computer games or whatever. It's never our fault.

Alex Porter said...

How difficult would it be to teach that supermarkets rob communities blind? I mean if I buy from a corner shop, the owner then buys from the florist who goes to the hairdresser who eats at the local cafe etc. When we shop at a supermarket the profits go straight to some off-shore bank account. The community dies. It takes only 10 minutes to explain that to children. Who want to work in Costcutters anyway?

So, in ten minutes you have a generation of children who want to do better for themselves and thier communities. How do they do that? Will maths help them run a small business? Yes. Will they care to find out if local produce is healthier? Yes. Will respect for other small businesses and local consumers grow? Yes. Will a sense of local pride come back? Yes. Will, a sense of belonging to the entire planet strengthen? Yes. A ten minute lesson on the economics of supermarkets can engage a generation.

In the end people learn better by themselves. Forced education is not an ideal modal. If I force you to eat your dinner every day you will stop enjoying food and see it only as fuel.

So, less time in the obligitory classroom. We are not raising a generation of prisoners after all. Smaller providers should be available for pupils to decide what they want to learn, from whom and when. More choice in the system would encourage a multi-disciplinary education and one where students where the desire to learn has not been beaten out of them. A motivated student can learn a lot in a short space of time. When we plan a complusory education we think only about maximum and not about optimum. x hours = y. That's the accountant talking. Nothing to do with value or quality in that equation.

If someone is interested in music and you force them to spend 8 hours a day studying history and geology they won't learn very much. If, they have love music let them study it 4 hours a day. Tell them they need to pass history and geology to get to university to study music and watch them suck it up.

No-one believes in the education system. Everyone blames everyone else and no-one likes it. The reason is because it is not relevant to the future and it hasn't been probably every. Schools are not prisons, they're not factories and children are not robots. To invest in the future we must try and be honest about the future. That requires thought across a range of subjects and an openess to step out of the past instead of fixing the past. The past and our resentments should be behind us. Investing is about tomorrow and setting the current and future generations free. Let's grow old with some dignity.

Sorry for ranting so long. Just felt like it..

Tory Totty Online said...

This is endemic across the globe Sb - which gives you some idea of the way the world is moving. I have taught in a few countries, in different continents, and most teachers are in agreement . . .as the left are taking hold, the more our education is dumbed down - the more young people are taught to challenge authority and we're heading towards complete dystopia. Mark my words - that's where we're heading unless something changes.

Sheila said...

@Subrosa If anything can stop this is making everyone aware of what is going on behind the spin and jargon. Thanks for facilitating this :)

@ Tory Tottie Online Agree. Try putting "lifelong learning" +"vradle to grave" into google.

And then have a look at this gem from the CfE site:

Sheila said...

Oops - obviously that should read "cradle to grave"

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

If schools were to educate as opposed to indoctrinate, learning would very likely be a lot more fun.

Now we couldn't have that could we - not when that indoctrination is to prepare the rest of life for the morbid disciplines of wage slavery and subservience to the masters.

The fact is, if teachers are worthy of that title, it is they who should be leading the charge to prevent education slipping further into the doldrums of bureaucratic fiction.

subrosa said...

Clarinda, for what it's worth, I think the introduction of comprehensive schools was the beginning of the downfall of Scottish education. I'm sure it was the same in England also.

It insisted those of all abilities were taught the same subjects with little or no specific attention paid to the manual skills such ad engineering, upon which Scotland excelled.

Time we insisted those who can't do the basics repeat primary 7 until they can. Far cheaper than having an endless stream of 'support' teachers.

subrosa said...

WFW, I don't mind your self promotion in the least.

Thank you for the links. I reply later if I may.

subrosa said...

Allan, I suspect the quality of exams you sat have been dumbed down quite considerably. Nobody has to be a brain box - we all have potential and it shouldn't be suppressed.

subrosa said...

Alex, loved your rant.

While I appreciate our young need to be prepared for employment, I consider that to be a subject for later in their secondary schooling.

Now what we have is a brainwashed generation. I wonder if any has ever questioned the propaganda concerning climate change and been heard? The important factor in that question is were they listened to, were they encouraged to further extend their thoughts or were they quietened by being told they were 'flat earthers'? Perhaps the latter.

Why are we having pupils on interview panels in England? We should be having businessmen on curriculum groups, not parents.

Plus we need to keep these Righteous out of the planning of our education systems. I mean these people who insist upon sex education for children who can't even read well. What good do these lessons do? It's quite a few years since they were introduced and yet pregnancies and STDs show no sign of reducing.

As you say we need common sense returned to teachers. Why teachers sold out to some of the changes over the years I don't understand. Did it mean less work for them?

They sold out now. Teachers have no power left. Yet I hear Balls has said they can now interfere in playground fights. I doubt if one of them would be silly enough to do so as they know full well that could be the end of their career.

subrosa said...

My pleasure Sheila and should you like to expand on the subject, please feel free to email email and I will publish your writings without edit.

subrosa said...

I'm sorry RA, there are few teachers I've met in recent years who would gain my respect. They gave that away when they didn't stand firm about the handing over of their power to pupils.

Apogee said...

As one who went through school in the era of the belt....and survived, I think that the rot set in when it was banned.
No one liked getting belted, but it taught quite a few things.
It taught you to think about what you were doing, it taught you that you were not fireproof, and led on to the next lesson, don't be stupid. It taught that you are responsible for your actions and as in adult life stupid actions result in penalties,which can be painful.
It taught that you were there to learn, not as some fools thought, to disrupt society, that is, the class. It may be a strange concept today, but most of us realised we were there to learn and most did their best.
We also were well aware of the quality or lack of the teaching staff, after all, we were the consumers !
Then the belt was banned, and three years later, a paper was reporting that of all the teachers who campaigned to ban the belt, none remained in teaching !
Discipline is a necessity in life, take it away and you have anarchy, which is what you seem to have in schools today, according to reports.
The three R's must be learnt properly before the kids leave primary,so they have the tools to learn effectively, but the teachers have all been indoctrinated by socialist crap for at least two generations, so with no discipline and teachers believing the crap they are teaching, what chance have the kids got.
Seems what used to taught in first year secondary is now taught in third year secondary.
So the results should be expected!

subrosa said...

We were also taught respect Apogee and consequences. All these things have disappeared at the behest of the PC lot who are still plugging their agenda.

This Learning Teaching Scotland should be done away with right now. They're poisoning our children's brains.

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