Wednesday, 29 June 2011

If You Live In The UK You'll Like This. Not A Lot But You Will Like It

A guest post by Petem130

Education, Education, Education

No academic versions of Phil and Kirstie here although, thinking about it that might be a great idea? I can see it now. Tonight’s show will feature Phil and Kirstie looking for the best possible school and education available for two twelve year olds… It could be fun you know, then again perhaps not.

Before going much further can I implore the non-Scots amongst you to please stick with this? Yes? Thanks.

We are all either in education, have been in education or are waiting to go into education, a no brainer really. We all have differing experiences of the education we got or are getting to some extent or of course, we may get. In Scotland there has long been a belief that our education system is one of the best in the world however, and unfortunately, that doesn’t seem likely to be the case at the moment. It hasn’t always been this way. We did have the best education system in the world but we have to look at history to find it.

The quality of Scottish education began to improve following the enactment of the Scottish parliament 1696 Act for Setting Schools. This required every parish in Scotland to supply a “house for a school” and a “salary for a teacher”. Within a generation nearly every parish had a permanent school with a regular teacher. Although teaching was elementary, most pupils learned to at least read and write and their education was provided free for the most part. By 1750 literacy levels in Scotland had risen to around 75%. Amazing! Incredible! Phenomenal! Scottish education was recognised as one of the best in the world. All the more impressive in that it took England until 1880 to achieve the same literacy level.

It’s obvious that if you can read you will want to have books. In fact, at that time, Scottish people of modest means had their own book collections and what they couldn’t afford was readily available at the local library, which again by 1750 every town of any size enjoyed. The list of “thinking” Scotsmen who owe their success to the improvements in literacy and education in general and then the Scottish Enlightenment in particular is long and contains some of the most distinguished minds in history.

Can we repeat this? Can we find a likely catalyst that could enable us to create a modern Scotland with an appropriately well educated population?

Perhaps Scottish Independence could provide a rare and unique opportunity? Perfect? Okay, maybe not perfect but it could be a potential focal point at least? Perhaps there’s no “could” about it and it has to be a significant prerequisite? Independence will bring a majority together and the time scale is long enough to allow the necessary strategic planning and development which, after all, will form the foundations of Scotland the New.

The present focus is, quite rightly, on winning independence but there is a significant amount of work required to win over the Scottish people. Financial powers, taxation levels, oil exploration and extraction, industrial and commercial development are all critical areas but are only a part of the strategies and policies which will be needed to share the vision of how Scotland will be post Westminster. This will require huge amounts of well thought out detail. Time, effort, innovation, intellect, pragmatism, appreciation of the differing needs of our geographical population? How long have we got? Well we know the answer to that. Four years probably with the fifth year being set aside for arguing the toss of achieving the separation with the EU and Westminster I’d suspect.

Now for those non-Scots who have stuck with this so far, here is the interesting part for you. This same opportunity is also going to be available to you whether you reside in England, Wales or Northern Ireland. The English population in particular must be really ticked off. As you know in Scotland the SNP have been able to get policies through which actually made and continue to make a difference to people's lives. Dave, on the other hand seems to be playing catch up in the rare moments when he’s not changing his mind. If I were English I would be ticked off.

So maybe the potential of a modern “Enlightenment” could be UK wide. Maybe it would be an ideal vehicle to drive a better economic future for everyone living in what used to be the UK. I'm certainly not suggesting we sit down and plan it with the other parts of the UK, that would defeat the purpose of independence but surely there would be ways we could work positively together? Surely it's better to have neighbours who create wealth and trading possibilities and who can take advantage of whatever Scotland can offer?

Maybe in the Scotland Office or St Andrews House or some other such place there's a detailed plan already worked out. All nice and detailed with diagrams and all the boxes ticked and the questions answered. That would be disappointing since we all want a say? But it could be a useful starting point. If there's nothing in existence at all then when do we start? Yes WE. You, me, the other visitors to this blog and all the other bloggers, voters, people in the street, politicians, business people.... and the temporarily unconvinced hangers on obviously!

Maybe we could once again have one of the best education systems in the world? Maybe educationalists from much richer and larger countries would visit to Scotland to find out how they could copy the techniques used in our schools, colleges and universities? Now that would be a fabulous recognition of success would it not?

We can do this. We can achieve this. And most of all we HAVE to do it for everyone’s sake.

Today is a good day to start so, as Mrs Merton used to say "let's have a heated debate”. Let's throw some ideas around. Blue sky thinking. Clean sheet. Maybe we should hold the puns tho!!!!!!



JRB said...

… keep it simple and straightforward

It may be the curse of the elderly, but I do firmly believe that in order to improve the educational standards of our children we have to return to basics.

The simple and straightforward grounding in the three ‘R’s’ is the foundation, the building blocks, of any balanced educational system.
No fancy alternative theories, no politically correct educational dogma, just simple basic schooling.

How often have we heard employers bemoan the fact that new recruits lack the basic, but essential, understanding in reading writing and arithmetic.

Equally, in these difficult times in the employment market, how often do we read of 50, 60 or 70 ‘graduates’ chasing a single post. As ‘graduates’ their aims are set high – but of what are they ‘graduates’?
Has the time not come for our universities to drop the airy-fairy courses and concentrate, for now, on those subjects of more value to society.
The perfect example is all those who studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) – all theory but no practical knowledge. You just have to look at Westmonster to confirm that theory.

English Pensioner said...

My grandmother was born in 1862, in Liverpool, the youngest of ten children. She went to a National School which she left at the age of about ten to assist her 18 year old sister who was a midwife!
I still have some letters written by her to myself as a child, and to my father. Perfect handwriting and grammar and a very wide vocabulary. They would put many people to shame these days. Her mental arithmetic was perfect; I remember going to help with her shopping when she was in her nineties; woe betide any shopkeeper who tried to overcharge by as much as a farthing! (That was before the days of barcodes and automatic tills). She was also an avid reader, having read all the classics, visiting the public library every week.
I wonder who many of our school leavers can read, write and do mental arithmetic to her standards; it you beleive the press it seems many ten year olds these days can only just about write their names!
Perhaps our teachers need to learn from the Victorian National Schools.

petem130 said...

I couldn't agree more. Far too many qualifications which have little application. If you create huge amounts of students it's only obvious that you'll get thousands who get degrees. It devalues the while system.

It's like a ponzi scheme and we're entering the end game.There are people out there trying to do the right thing. It's an upward struggle.

So many young people thinking they have a degree which will get them a good job and a nice life. You have to feel for them.

petem130 said...

English pensioner.

Appropriateness. That's what we need is it not? Appropriately educated people who can take their place in society (but not Dave's version please although to be fair no one has any idea what he means anyway).

Sheila said...

I don't see how this can be done. I wish I could...and please don't switch off English readers - Scotland is a world leader, but not in a way I'm proud of.

We have a global education system now.

I too was taken in by the lovely, woolly fluff surrounding Scotland's Curriculum for Excellence.

This post gathers together concerns from within the teaching profession:

Until we acknowledge that educational policy has not a lot to do with what our politicians spout then we have had it :(

Remember that Curriculum for Excellence was meant to have originated with Cathy Jamieson's (Labour) Big Education Debate.


"“Curriculum for Excellence is transforming learning to prepare
young people for the social, economic and environmental
challenges of the 21st century. This process is part of an
international project: the four capacities of Curriculum for
Excellence mirror UNESCO’s ‘Four Pillars’ of education: learning
to know, learning to do, learning to be and learning to live
together (Learning: the Treasure Within’ UNESCO 1996). ”

Note that the "golden age" referred to is about legislating for the provision of educational opportunities - there was no compulsion until much later (sorry, would have to look it up)

As Subrosa knows, I could rant on about all his for ages but I'll leave it for now.

petem130 said...

During the time from the reformation and the Enlightenment the Scottish people were very informed and confident. Why? because they'd been told that they were the important ones not God, Kings or politicians. They were willing to question and debate. There is no equal to that in today's society.

People were eager to learn. Again we have little sign of that in today's society.

We will never believe that any meaningful change will take place unless we make it happen. That's why we need to be more insistent with our new government and take part in the debate about how Scotland the New will be after Independence.

We cab make anything happen. We just have to want it enough to make it happen.

Derek said...

The mental damage done in school takes a lifetime to erase, and many fail. The system succeeds.

The system is set up to create pawns.

petem130 said...


I totally agree.

The greatest weapon in their armory is of course the school uniform. Why would we want to dress our kids up in a uniform and how does that support their education? Who knows and it can't.

We want individuals who are creative, knowledgeable and enthusiastic. We don't want clones who have been dragged through a collective system which fails the middle ability band which forms the largest percentage of pupils. We don't want a despite education I achieved X. Not good. Not good at all.

Individuality please. Individual responsibility realisation for each pupil along with support to address this and be able to function without uttering the words - "what's the government going to do".

I can feel another blog entry coming on....


Edward Spalton said...

I recently had the job of sorting through the effects of a deceased clergyman. There was one fairly short book about the traditional services of the Church of England, published in 1949. It touched on the Scottish Episcopal prayer book too which the author thought rather superior. The traditional services have now mostly been replaced by modern rites which are said to be "easier to understand". The process was underway even then.

On the last page the, author the Reverend Ernest Evans DD Canon of Bradford, remarks "...We have to face the fact that the net result of seventy years' universal state-controlled education is that most men are far less intelligent than their grandfathers were. If then the Prayer Book is above the head of the casual worshipper, that is his fault or misfortune...."

Derek said...

Uniform - indoctrination into regimentation. Lining up, certain kind of school emblem to be worn etc. etc. At 'our' school the uniform adherence is more demanding with the newest intakes (yr 7) from primary.

My eleven year old daughter has stress about achieving certain 'goals' in class so as to receive an award. The award? A bar of chocolate. I kid you not.

Sheila said...

Just to remind everyone - school is not compulsory :)

petem130 said...


Thanks for such an interesting example which reflects the real state of affairs. A long term loss of quality, aim and delivery in education.

We are all to blame for this. It's is our greatest shame. We have allowed people to tell what is right when we've known it is wrong.

Unsavory elements have used education to increasingly indoctrinate our children.

petem130 said...


Young children being stressed. It's been the way of it and we all suffered from it and have stories to tell.

The system has changed little from a structural point of views for a very long time and no one political or otherwise has had the courage to suggest ways in which education can be delivered which is positive and beneficial.

Derek said...

That's right Sheila, and this term is the last our daughter will be at the mercy of state education. We are on the verge of moving, and state school will not feature from this term end. She will be learning with us at home, getting involved in everything we do to be self sufficient within reason without recourse to a collective, competetive environment.

Stress has been a buzz word for a full generation now, and having heard it from the parents mouths, children want some too. We mostly all got bullied at school, and in my day you either stood up for yourself, or made a comedy from a situation to defuse it. I got quite good at the latter. Stress was something used in science class.

subrosa said...

Exactly Derek, but nowadays 'stress' is an excuse for so much. The problem is that not even today's teachers can handle pressure and our children therefore aren't being taught how to do it.

As for competition, I think that's healthy. It's important to stimulate.

But I agree with you both, today's education system is not fit for purpose.

Sheila said...

My very best wishes Derek - life without school can be quite a revelation and a lot of fun :)

petem130 said...

I've started a new article on education and I'll reflect the comments provided. Thank you all very much.

Despite the education system I survived. An often heard statement. The middle band of children in a class which makes up the biggest proportion are the ones who suffer most.

The basic model of education would seem to be wrong.

Good luck with home education!

Related Posts with Thumbnails