Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Bringing Together The Threads - Guest Post

I thought it might be the right time to bring at least two threads together, education and Scottish Independence. There is a genuine link in as much as some of my previous blogs have focussed on the apparent shortcomings of education and some others have lingered on the need to, at least, begin fleshing out how an independent Scotland might be.

A greatly improved education system should, surely, be a high priority, high want and high need objective (pre and post Scottish Independence). Are you listening and agreeing Alex?. To achieve this ALL politics need to be put to one side. Now at this point you’re thinking naive and utopian. You’re thinking politicians would never be able to achieve keeping politics out of this challenge. Well, maybe there is a way.

In order to create an education system, which is acceptable to pupils, educators, parents and taxpayers and which meets appropriate governance, a framework would need to be defined to work within.

Given the present situation, going down the “experimental” route seems to be the most likely way to proceed. So introducing a high level control to keep everyone on board and stop scope creep and, perhaps, restrict personal agendas being pursued. The control would be based on Referism. Involve as many people as want to be involved throughout the whole of Scotland and refer all decision away from centralised high-level authorities and direct them to the people of Scotland.

The following is an extract from an earlier blog article

Referism has been suggested as a potential way forward and why not? EUreferendum defines it as a “political philosophy, which states that, in the relationship between the British people and their governments, the people should be in control”. Dr.Richard North, through the EUreferendum blog, goes on to define further aspects of the term, which are based around the people taking part in yearly referendums to accept the budget on which all government activities are based.

On the face of it this seems like a reasonable and simple way forward. A simple mechanism, control the purse strings, control how much, where and when funds are spent. Politicians will, of course, take a different view. MPs have been voted for by the electorate to represent them, They are likely to cite “voter apathy”, a “lack of understanding by the voters” and any other number of views which in effect talk down the ability of the electorate to take on such responsibilities. The electorate can and does form opinions and can drive change although the present system is being manipulated to reduce the likelihood of that happening.

Referism could, perhaps, be extended to directly involve the electorate more often and on a larger number of issues. Technology exists today to ensure that greater communication can take place between Parliament and the electorate. It might be unwieldy to require all the electorate to participate all of the time however, and there’s also the spectre of 1984 examples, which are less than beneficial”.
So we have our high level control. Next, how do we identify and determine the elements required to meet the vision of a modern education system? Well…

Now at this point you’re thinking naive and utopian. Again. Yawn.

Last time I checked, quantum scientists had a theory that we live in a world, which has 14 dimensions, this is just a bit too many for us to make any real sense out of. However, we regularly manage quite nicely within 5 dimensions, which encompass –


This 5D-scoping environment provides the framing for topics, which have strategic importance. Now you’re thinking height? Width? Depth? What?

Well how high do you want to set your success parameters? How wide will the scope be? How much depth of detail will be required for the initial framing? What order will things be carried out? How long will it take? Simple really. The 5D-scoping environment would be applied to every question, statement and answer as a means of ensuring every possibility is evaluated to identify value.

So far so good. The next stage, following the creation of the framing or scoping, is actually starting to make things happen and for this, another 5D solution, the 5D Methodology would work pretty nicely. Surprisingly, it has five stages all of which start with “D”. How convenient.


Discover what already exists, if anything.
Define what needs to be done.
Design the project plan (based on Prince2 governance).
Develop the project (using an appropriately customised version of Prince2).
Deliver the desired outcome as exactly as intended.

So where to start? What are the main priorities for a modern education system for Scotland post independence? What is the single most important aim?

What’s the first step?

Come on people. What do you think? Collaborate? Share ideas? Leave a comment with your priority for improved education.


JRB said...

I’m sorry petem13 but for me I see Referism is nothing more than another name for a ‘committee of everyone’.

Having spent a lifetime on various committees, I am left with the firm belief that the most efficient and effective committee is made up of an odd number less than three.

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

Capability and commitment of teachers to inspire and encourage motivation without the false values, targets, excuses or limitations of coercion.

And, as far as referism goes we would need to be told the truth and the true purpose behind the figures and so called facts. It is this same lack that corrupts our democracy and would have the same effect on any 'acy' or 'ism'.

That said, I'm all for a referendum on getting out from the EU. It's an anathema to everything democratic and charges a twenty percent tax on everything for the privilege.

And as recent events are exposing its bank has joined forces with a loan shark called the IMF.

Jo G said...

I say no to experiments but a resounding yes to going with what we knew worked in the past: an emphasis on literacy, numeracy and the teaching of skills that will provide the knowledge and expertise to allow young people to embrace jobs they are equipped for. It can be done, we did it before.

In the past many young people left secondary school ready to take up jobs. They are now leaving university, many of them, with "degrees" yet they are found to be unfit by the many employers out there. Which leads me to the other myth which, in my view, has to be exploded and then abandoned: to be educated it is not necessary to go to university. Maybe if we can get that over we can get shot of the many Mickey Mouse courses at unis these days and save the taxpayer a fortune!

petem130 said...


But this is democracy we are dealing with. Refer to no one is the EU way. Who is happy with that?

It would take time to build the respect required to engage with the population as a whole. But we should all respect our fellow citizens and their rights to have and to pursue their opinions.

Our democracy will suffer following the NOTW debacle, not because of what they did but because of the reaction by politicians and the press. 9/11 triggered new legislation which has been used for things other than it was intended. This will be the case now.

The current system does not work. We either put up with it or we try to do something about it. I'm for the latter.

Thanks for your comment.

petem130 said...

Well Crinkly, I'd suggest that the majority of good teachers want change as much as we do. They want to be free of the political nonsense, continual change and need to teach things which are fashionable but have little value.

How do we address this? What mechanism do we have at our disposal? What safeguards are built into the current system which ensure core knowledge and values are taught and maintained? Less then none.

Lots to be done then.


petem130 said...

Thanks Jo G.

Whilst we can learn from the past and use good practice I think we need a fresh look at who we ware as Scots and what we want of our nation.

The world has changed and we need to discover our place in it. Then provide the structure for our children to have the knowledge and skills which will exploit the opportunities which exist.

The current degree system is eroding the value of the qualifications it awards. This can't go on. We don't need degrees for all we need degrees which provide value for students and employers which will result in greater wealth creation. A degree should not be the first requirement in a job vacancy specification, it should be a lower level requirement following experience and previous success.

Jo G said...

I disagree Pete. No fresh look required. We know what we had before worked. We need to reset the priorities we had then: literacy, numeracy and meaningful skills. They worked.

Degrees are required for the professions, not for saddos who want to graduate in media studies! The professions matter: the rest can be catered for in secondary schools.

The world hasn't changed, its just the idiots who have been in charge of education in the last twenty years who have spun that lie. We still need people who have been educated properly. (Sadly many current teachers are products from that timespan and they too can't spell, do good grammar or count without a calculator.) I rest my case.

Jo G said...

"A degree should not be the first requirement in a job vacancy specification, it should be a lower level requirement following experience and previous success." point was that a "degree" shouldn't be needed at all. The value of a degree currently has been reduced to zilch due to the many Mickey Mouse degrees on offer.

petem130 said...

Thanks for your comments Jo G.

Degrees are a commodity now, a profit centre. The real losers are those with good degrees from good universites and of course or economy.

It's a far from ideal situation.

subrosa said...

I think colleges have a part to play in modern education because they can provide part-time study, although that seems to be going out of fashion these days.

I disagree Petem that the real losers are those with good degrees from good universities. They're the winners because their courses show the standards of many others.

We ought to be having far more one, two and three year courses, some even part-time.

Fifty years ago many excellent engineers studied in their spare time (evenings usually) while working a 6 day week. Now it takes 4 years of full-time study. Follow the money as OR says.

Jo G said...

Petem, I have never been able to get my head around the fact that, these days, young people cannot do what young people could do when I left school without believing they have to go to uni to "complete" their education. I'm speaking about numeracy and literacy. We have evidence from many employers who are shocked by the awful standards in both when young people arrive to take up jobs, many waving their degrees.

We have the absurd situation where pupils can take exams using calculators and spell checks. We have secondary modules where it is easy as pie to cheat and submit work that isn't your own which will count towards your mark at the end of the year. The scope for cheating is endless. The system doesn't best serve the interests of anyone.

In the past it was easier to accurately identify those who were coping with the work as well as those who needed more support. These days everyone is a genius it seems until they suddenly arrive in the real world and then employers start tearing their hair out.

Jo G said...

"....Follow the money as OR says."

As Subrosa points out, there is the crux of the matter. Follow the money. I don't think I could cope with the final figures spent on "education" in the last twenty years because it would just make this debate even more depressing given the extent of the failure to deliver.

That's why I'm not for a major consultation exercise now because it will be expensive and extensive which means it will cost us even more money and take forever to reach any clear conclusions when we know right now what the problems are.

I think tho that any change will produce the biggest reaction from teachers who these days seem to think the world owes them the living. I realise they do a very tough job but recent hints that reducing holidays is being considered provoked an ugly reaction. Excluding bank holidays (with the usual "in-service" days tagged on when there are no pupils present) they enjoy around twelve weeks a year off. I only recently heard too that if they're not "taking classes" they can "work from home". Eh?

We've seen the introduction of "class-room assistants" in schools. Those posts were initially meant to provide support in class for a teacher. In some council areas those class-room assistants are actually taking classes. That was never meant to happen yet they are being exploited. Some are even being fast tracked into teaching with only O-grade/Standard grades via some new course someone has dreamed up! I find that completely unacceptable. No wonder things are going downhill.

Jo G said...

"That said, I'm all for a referendum on getting out from the EU. It's an anathema to everything democratic and charges a twenty percent tax on everything for the privilege."

That's interesting John. I personally have felt alarmed at the SNP enthusiasm for the EU while I am frequently stunned at the amount of money the EU takes AND gets through not to mention its reluctance to respond to the shocking situation whereby auditors won't sign off their accounts!

Jo G said...

"Our democracy will suffer following the NOTW debacle, not because of what they did but because of the reaction by politicians and the press. 9/11 triggered new legislation which has been used for things other than it was intended. This will be the case now."

I'm not sure democracy will suffer Petem but I certainly hope the press is now properly regulated. The current panic about regulation among them is telling indeed. We're hearing all this rubbish about the need to retain a "free press". We had one and look how that was exploited via illegal conduct, disgusting conduct by many. The PCC should be dismantled and run independently with no one from newspapers remotely allowed near it. Are you aware that you can't complain to the PCC unless you personally are damaged by the story? I found that out last year when I submitted a complaint about the treatment (by the Sunday Telegraph) of a person they featured. I got a letter back saying, "Sorry, you weren't mentioned in this story. Go away." So the ordinary consumer can't be part of the process in the current set up: they don't have the right according to the PCC unless they're personally named. That we have functioned with this sort of arrangement all this time proves there was never any intention to regulate anything in newspapers. Ironically broadcasting is subject to pretty heavy regulation.

I listened to Harry Reid and a Professor of Journalism from England on NN Scotland the other night wailing about "freedom of the press". Not one of them referred specifically to the illegal practice of phone hacking that had been going on for many years. I was particularly disgusted with Reid, a former editor of the Herald, when he claimed this whole furore was simply politicians taking revenge. Considering what was done to Milly Dowler's phone I thought that was a shocking statement from him.

I think, and hope, things will change because of both what the press did and the reaction. There needed to be a reaction to what they did and the change that comes needs to be radical for politicians and for newspapers. Those who scream in protest that we need a "free" press miss the whole point. We had one and the privilege was utterly abused.

(Sorry to go off topic there Subrosa.)

subrosa said...

No problem Jo, it was related.

I'm going to have to post something about the NI business. Just so fed up with it at the moment.

petem130 said...

Goodness Jo G.

We'll have to agree to differ on the world being a different place now. And we'll also have to differ on the negative effect the new rules and regulations will have on our democratic rights.

The BBC and the Guardian have run a very effective campaign. They might yet face embarrassment and censure for some of their own techniques and abuse of balance and power.

Here's hoping.

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