Question Time’s hatchet job on Scottish Education

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Mike Russell got thoroughly outnumbered last night by several ranting, self-obsessed and not too bright attention-seekers, enabled by Dumbledore, before he was stabbed in the back by Dugdale, so we heard barely a trace of intelligent discussion on education. On top of that, the otherwise sensible crime writer delivered the rambling uneducated fantasy tale nonsense of ‘inspirational’ teachers ‘allowed to teach’ being better than a systematic coherent curriculum, guaranteed for all and not just a handful of bright wee Fifers favoured by their English teacher. Then we had Fraser Nelson! I find it difficult to understand his marble-filled mumble, but I think he was saying that Scottish education is failing because one teacher he knows has told him it is.

I spent 40 years in school education, in teacher education and in research methods education. I wrote curriculum resources (Mathematics for 5-14-year-olds) which were used by thousands of teachers in the old Strathclyde region (population of Wales). I had educational research published in peer-reviewed journals. I read and evaluated hundreds of educational research studies and I summarised the findings for students, practitioners and policy-makers. I’ve got six postgraduate awards including Master of Education and PhD. I don’t care that it sounds pompous, it does, but I think I might have something more useful to say than most on Question Time last night:

  1. A trade union, primarily charged with the task of increasing pay and improving conditions, is not a reliable source for educational policy. Nor are a few clearly worn-out practitioners made bitter perhaps by their own discipline-related or intellectual deficits. Only impartial empirical research, based on reasonably large samples, is of any value in making policy and the Scottish government consulted that.
  2. The reports of 5-year-olds, supposedly traumatised by testing, are not evidence of any widespread phenomenon, but are scattered tales from a handful of neurotic parents, more than likely responsible themselves for stimulating any negative reaction by their unfortunate children, and then Ruthlessly exploited by cynical politicians.
  3. International comparison, often of a narrow range of arithmetical and linguistic concept attainment outcomes, such as that done by PISA, is of little to no value in informing policy determination within one country. As Mike Russell tried to point out, the PISA tests are known to suit the wider cultures, especially the influence of parents and families, of countries such as South Korea or Singapore and not others such as the UK or the USA. Notably, the former systems produce efficient copyists and the latter produce innovators and creative minds.
  4. The clear successes of Scottish education apparent in a narrowing attainment gap, increasing numbers leaving school with qualifications, increasing numbers going on to Higher Education and increasing numbers leaving colleges with positive destinations, are too often ignored by groups obsessed with their deliberate or stupid misreading of the situation, based on sensationalist reporting on PISA or on the calculated protests from the EIS.
  5. Staffing in Scottish schools is higher per capita is than in the other parts of the UK.

For more detail on these topics, see:

Scotland’s school’s PISA results ‘lean’ toward nothing meaningful. Finland’s success is not real. South Korea and China’s educational programmes amount to child abuse

Forget PISA’s tiny unreliable samples: Scotland has the best school attainment outcomes in the UK because it has the most teachers per pupil

More students from the most deprived parts of Scotland are entering Higher Education but, once again, BBC Scotland attempts to mislead us

Scots employees have higher digital skills than in most parts of the UK only 5 years after Scottish Government launched its digital strategy

95% of Scottish college-leavers have positive destinations

Scotland has more educated workers than England: JRF Excerpt 2

97% of Scotland’s head teachers expect attainment gap to close over next five years thanks to SNP government funding

I’ll be asking questions!

 

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29 thoughts on “Question Time’s hatchet job on Scottish Education

  1. Ludo Thierry October 12, 2018 / 7:45 am

    Fantastic rant John – and highly informative to boot – brilliant stuff – keep it up!!

    Liked by 4 people

  2. stewartb October 12, 2018 / 8:31 am

    Well said John. Needed to be said strongly and similar comments need to the shouted far and wide. I hope there were teachers and parents watching this programme who KNOW this was a disgraceful misrepresentation and who will also take every opportunity to point this out.

    Even the EIS should make it clear how Scottish education was misrepresented – it needs to rise above politicking and stick up for the work and considerable achievements of the the teaching profession it represents and of the pupils.

    (And when will the Scottish Government finally nail – loudly and robustly – the issues around the PISA results? There is plenty of independent, academic evidence that is highly critical of them. Indeed have I not read you on the subject?)

    Liked by 4 people

    • johnrobertson834 October 12, 2018 / 8:55 am

      Thanks Stewart. Mike did try to explain PISA suiting some countries before he was jumped on.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. MisterCorzi October 12, 2018 / 8:32 am

    Agree wholeheartedly with your (and Mike Russell’s) comments concerning the PISA tests. Here’s the link to the letter (re PISA Test) from 83 experts sent back in 2014 to Dr Andreas Schleicher director of the PISA programme voicing their many concerns. Bullet point six, re follow-up for-profit services, is particularly worrying and perhaps gives a hint at the powerful forces behind these tests.
    https://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/may/06/oecd-pisa-tests-damaging-education-academics

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Fraser Grant October 12, 2018 / 8:34 am

    Agree with this. A letter along these lines to Yoon newspapers would carry some weight and antidote to those who say our education is pish. They should be reminded that, despite all the negative headlines, in the most recent attitudes survey 85% of those who interacted with the education system were satisfied.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Bryan Weir October 12, 2018 / 8:52 am

    Well said John.

    I have four grandchildren in education and all of them are doing very well. The oldest one was the dux of his primary school and is now entering sixth year with five highers and going for more. The others are all also achieving. I have taken some interest in their schooling during the last 12 years and I have yet to see any evidence of this failed Scottish Education system that is repeatedly pushed to the top of the page.

    Liked by 1 person

    • johnrobertson834 October 12, 2018 / 8:56 am

      Good evidence! They still have duxes, duces?

      Was Mussolini, il Duce, one I wonder?

      Like

    • Hazel Godfrey October 13, 2018 / 9:21 pm

      I agree.

      Like

  6. Alasdair Macdonald October 12, 2018 / 9:23 am

    Well said.

    I endorse all of the points which you make. I, too, have some qualifications in education.

    I stopped listening to Question Time a long time ago, as, I think have many millions of others. It is an example of the kind of programming that has driven people away from the mainstream media.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. William Henderson October 12, 2018 / 9:49 am

    Broke my own rule of years and, as a result of your well measured response, forced myself to watch this programme on iPlayer.

    My opinion – a typically technically polished television presentation of mainly infantile utterances of of made-up people intent on projecting themselves as important thinkers on matters of which they know little. The only informed adult on the panel was Mike Russell and his opinions were stifled constantly by partisan overtalk.

    You didn’t say that the question on the education system was right at the end (but I’ll forgive you!) so I endured the whole hour of this insult to the intelligence of viewers. All I can add is that our state education system is succeeding wonderfully in producing an able, well-rounded population in the face of powerful media forces intent on dumbing it down.

    Your first sentence containing “Mike Russell got thoroughly outnumbered last night by several ranting, self-obsessed and not too bright attention-seekers” must rank in the first class of succinct and accurate journalism.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ian Kirkwood October 14, 2018 / 6:19 pm

      Education placed at the end intentionally and the usual “sadly we are out of time” did not allow Mike Russell any opportunity to respond to the concerted attack.

      Like

  8. John October 12, 2018 / 9:58 am

    Stopped watching Question Time many years ago because even then you could see it was it was rigged . I decided to watch because of where it was coming from to see what the demographics would be , it was as I suspected . Mostly teachers , mostly Tory voters but with a good scattering of Labour voters, couple of SNP voters , three plants , and panel stacked up against SNP . Nothing has changed , I won’t be watching again , ever ! .

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Alan Gordon October 12, 2018 / 11:37 am

    Thanks John. A good rant, measured, justified and appropriate.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. MisterCorzi October 12, 2018 / 12:46 pm

    Agree wholeheartedly with your (and Mike Russell’s) comments concerning the PISA tests. Here’s the link to the letter (re PISA Test) from 83 experts sent back in 2014 to Dr Andreas Schleicher director of the PISA programme voicing their many concerns. Bullet point six, re follow-up for-profit services, is particularly worrying and perhaps gives a hint at the powerful forces behind these tests.
    https://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/may/06/oecd-pisa-tests-damaging-education-academics

    Liked by 1 person

    • stewartb October 12, 2018 / 6:55 pm

      The list of people contributing to this letter criticising the PISA test is ‘notable’ to say the least.

      For info, here is a link to a 2015 Stanford University academic’s critique of the PISA system: https://nepc.colorado.edu/sites/default/files/pb_carnoy_international_test_scores_0.pdf . There is actually quite a lot of expert comment on PISA online.

      If BBC Scotland’s Education ‘expert’ (Mr Jamie McIvor?) is on the look out for an interesting issue to investigate, we’ve given him some useful, readily available and independent sources have we not? I wonder if he reads John’s blog?

      Liked by 1 person

      • johnrobertson834 October 13, 2018 / 7:51 am

        I wonder or do they get the sack if found out?

        Like

  11. James Henderson October 12, 2018 / 6:27 pm

    Watched the program, concluded much the same, noticed the nodding element in force,don’t have the eloquence to do what you clearly can, well done thanks .

    Like

  12. Austin Flynn October 12, 2018 / 9:47 pm

    “Nor are a few clearly worn-out practitioners made bitter perhaps by their own discipline-related or intellectual deficits. Only impartial empirical research, based on reasonably large samples, is of any value in making policy and the Scottish government consulted that.
    The reports of 5-year-olds, supposedly traumatised by testing, are not evidence of any widespread phenomenon, but are scattered tales from a handful of neurotic parents, more than likely responsible themselves for stimulating any negative reaction by their unfortunate children, and then Ruthlessly exploited by cynical politicians”.

    A rather scathing synopsis of Scottish parents and a cynical reference to professionals currently engaged in delivering learning experiences to our young ones. It is probably an expected response from those on the research and administrative side of an education system based upon reporting on a curriculum which is using outmoded concepts in the preparation of living in this world, 10 to 20 years hence.
    Some parents are convinced that these tests are a reincarnation of the 11+ and not to determine a bench mark for curriculum design, some think they are a government ploy in establishing a place on a global league. Others could not care less. They do not understand or know, a poor showing in educating those who care and matter.

    Like

    • johnrobertson834 October 14, 2018 / 7:40 am

      Thanks, but I made no criticism of all parents or of all teachers just the regular few for whom any change is an excuse to moan about workload or to excuse faults located elsewhere. Crucially, my central point is to attack the unionist media exploitation of these few convenient voices.

      I spent decades as a teacher and among teachers. The incubation of neuroses and its suppression of better tendencies in many colleagues was a daily experience.

      Like

  13. Golfer October 12, 2018 / 11:03 pm

    Don’t know much about the education system even though my daughter is a teacher and tells me that she has always carried out P1 assessments without any hysterics/traumatic/upset children. A standard practice moving to a standard best practice. What’s the problem? The problem is the British Nationalists just inventing problems. I do know enough about other areas of life and I long ago came to the conclusion that the BBC is the British state propaganda broadcaster. The BBC is only doing the job it is paid to do, namely broadcast propaganda on behalf of the British state. It is becoming so obvious now that more and more people in Scotland are realising they are being fed a lot of lies.

    Liked by 1 person

    • johnrobertson834 October 14, 2018 / 7:41 am

      Hole in one! You’ve maybe had that before but let me enjoy myself.

      Like

  14. diabloandco October 13, 2018 / 5:28 am

    I get so angry when I hear or read the SNHS , the police and the Education system of Scotland attacked on such a regular basis. BBBC Scotland should hang its head in shame over its unionist efforts.

    Impartiality? It has no concept of the meaning.

    I didn’t and haven’t watched the posers political programme for years now , neither do I watch Brewer’s version of events.- it helps my blood pressure tremendously.

    I am extremely grateful to folk like yourself who suffer on my behalf.

    Liked by 1 person

    • johnrobertson834 October 13, 2018 / 7:52 am

      I’m sure you’re doing the right thing for your health. It’s become a blood sport for me.

      Like

  15. Bryan Weir October 14, 2018 / 8:10 am

    Queen’s University Belfast mathematician Dr. Hugh Morrison stated that he found the statistical model underlying PISA to contain a fundamental, insoluble mathematical error that renders Pisa rankings “valueless”.

    The complex mathematical content of his report places it way over my head but its conclusion is quite telling.

    “Returning to the real life consequences of this refutation of latent variable modelling in general and Rasch modelling in particular, one cannot escape the conclusion that the OECD’s claims in respect of its PISA project have [scant validity] given the central dependence of these claims on the clear separability of ability from the items designed to measure that ability.”

    According to Wikipedia Morrison published his findings in 2004 but they have yet to be addressed and they are being ignored.

    https://web.archive.org/web/20130605225916/http://www.qub.ac.uk/schools/SchoolofEducation/AboutUs/Staff/Academic/DrHughMorrison/Filestore/Filetoupload,387514,en.pdf

    Like

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