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Thursday 21 June 2012

Got Any O’s?

[Update at end of post]

The state of education, and the idea that it is somehow failing many young people, is the kind of topic guaranteed to set the why-oh-why part of the Fourth Estate into a froth, and is a genuine shoo-in dog whistle item for any right-wing politician. The rather tenuous reason that the status quo is bad, though, is because, like the reason women can’t go to the stoning, ‘cos it’s written, that’s why.

Former Murdoch hack in leaky duck house

So it should not surprise anyone that Michael “Oiky” Gove’s well choreographed leak to the Daily Mail was the receipt of right-leaning euphoria, only to be brought down to earth as it was subjected to a little serious analysis and finally brought to a juddering halt as Corporal Clegg and his motley platoon declined to go over the top in its support, thus demonstrating that Gove was effectively going rogue.

Gove has sold Tim Shipman of the Mail, and it has to be stressed Shipman’s legendarily foul mouthed editor, the idea of ditching GCSE exams and reintroducing “O” levels, along with something that sounds ominously like the CSE for les able pupils (a grade 1 CSE was counted as a “pass” at “O” level, or a Grade 6 on the 1 to 6 (pass) and 7 to 9 (fail) grading once used).

At this point you might have gleaned that I have a little knowledge of both exams, but, I have to confess, not much. And I’m damn sure that none of the hacks and pundits pontificating about the Gove leak even have that, thus the problem. It’s all too easy to mock the GCSE, and talk of “dumbing down”, but for some reason it never comes with the odd scrap of decent evidence.

This is true of today’s rabble of pundits. Take Peter Mullen, the batshit vicar of Telegraph Blogs: teachers “don’t know anything worth knowing. Moreover, they are proud of their ignorance. They were taught at colleges of education or university departments which encourage it”. What a Grade 1 meathead. And Mullen is joined in the Barking corner by Tim Stanley, who you can tell as he’s a Doctor.

One of the hallmarks of the old O-level system was that it developed subjects beyond the limitations of rote learning for exams into broad investigations of the entire discipline” he burbles, which is weapons grade bullshit. “A” levels, yes, but not “O” levels. And for good measure, Stanley thinks that following through on this idea should be sufficient to have Gove made Prime Minister. God help us.

Has anyone bothered to apply a little thought to this area, rather than recycling the book of pundit quotations? Fortunately Chris Cook at FT Blogs has, and his piece makes for interesting reading. Elsewhere, the Guardian has given readers questions from a sample “O” level maths paper. I have to confess that I never did Venn diagrams, but the rest was dead easy.

So in the land of blind punditry, I can declare myself the resident one-eyed man.

[UPDATE 23 June 1810 hours: to no surprise at all, the Murdoch press - Gove's former home - has been talking up his idea, especially the downmarket part at the Super Soaraway Currant Bun, where a typically dishonest piece has appeared today.

"Business leaders backing O levels" declares the headline, with readers being told "BOSSES last night BACKED Education Secretary Michael Gove's radical plans to axe GCSEs and bring back O levels", showing that Sun READERS have to have some WORDS in CAPITALS in order to UNDERSTAND what the ARTICLE is all ABOUT.

But the quotes, to no surprise at all, fail to match the headline. The BCC wants a system "to deliver young people ready for the world of work" (the rote learning of the "O" level won't do that), while the CBI said GCSEs "may not be delivering" (so no "backing" for Gove there, either).

Only the IOD, with "Employers are concerned exam standards have slipped, so action to make them more demanding is welcome" comes close, and that's the fringe body that lines up with the so-called Taxpayers' Alliance in wanting a public sector without the NHS as we know it, and without free access to education for all.

But it fits in with the Murdoch agenda of talking up his former hack, so that's all right, then]

1 comment:

Andy said...

Tim Stanley is a real idiot. But then he has no experience of O-levels to know what he is talking about. They did nothing for knowing the subject or putting it in context. They were rote learning drivel that 25 years later I struggle to remember a single word of.

We have moved on, and until the Exam Board started competing for market (free-markets are always the best thing for finding an optimum) GCSEs were great. The dumbing down is not the GCSEs it is the exam boards and textbook publishers.