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Sunday, 8 July 2012

Public good, private bad

... or so you would think if you read a report in the Guardian on Friday, also carried by the Bolshevik Broadcasting Corporation.

The gist of the story is that pupils at England's secondary schools are just half as likely to score highly on international maths tests than those in the average developed country, according to a report from the Sutton Trust. Just 1.7% of England's pupils achieved the top proficiency level in maths (level 6), compared to an average of 3.1% for countries within the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OCED).

The study also shows that almost all of the English pupils achieving the highest marks are from independent and grammar schools, with "almost no pupils" achieving top levels from non-selective state schools.

But it gets worse when England's 1.7% is compared with areas in South East Asia. 26.6% of their peers in Shanghai municipality achieved a level 6, 15.6% in Singapore and 11.3% in Chinese Taipei.

Well we can probably dismiss the Shanghai figure as being highly selective and because the school system is specifically geared towards these tests, but well done nevertheless, but do we really do so badly compared to Singapore or Hong Kong?

Well parts of the English education system don't.  The private and grammar schools actually make up 10% of the school population, so if the 1.7% success rate is almost entirely in the these schools, then this works out at a very respectable pass rate of 17%, higher than Singapore or Taiwan.

It is the rest of the educational system, stifled by bureaucracy and egalitarian ideology that lets down their brightest pupils. And don't try to tell me that independent schools somehow undermine the state system.  they don't.  With fewer pupils to teach in the state system there are more resources to go around.. And they don't cream off all the best teachers, and even if they did, having a teacher from only the second decile and below shouldn't penalise the brightest children.  No, in order to have "almost no pupils" from the state system achieving the top grades tells you that it is the system that is messed up.


Demetrius said...

At the risk of being ancient, Math's needs persistence, discipline and indeed a language structure that seem to be alien now amongst many of us. It also needs the awareness of how critical it is in many other areas of study. If state schools in general have less of this and more "choice", "self awareness" and "community work" etc. then the needs for effective math's teaching will not be there.

Alex said...

Well I agree that state schools are very lax on rigour, but I dispute the lack of need for mathematical teaching, which judging by the results is really only pushed in the private sector.

The lack of rigour is however consistent with the attitude of many in positions of power where absolute determination of values is not so important as the ability to adopt a position and persuade the country of its correctness. That seems to be the way the country is run.