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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Staffing in Scottish schools is higher per capita is than in the other parts of the UK.
For more detail on these topics, see:
I’ll be asking questions!