Monday, August 21, 2006

School leavers 'unfit for work'

CBI again, complaining that too may employees lack basic literacy and numeracy skills, citing bad grammar, spelling and mathematical skills as symptoms of an educational system that isn't functioning properly.

This much I'd probably agree with, but that's about all. Certainly not with, or not only with, their rather limited view of what education is for. And probably not on the reasons behind some of these problems.

Which I won't bore you with except to say I really don't think this culture of consumer choice - which the CBI tend to be very enthusiastic about - hasn't done education many favours. It's the problem of psuedo-markets. Distribute school places according to ability, the price mechanism or stick with the comprehensive system are the choices that government has. But they avoid this and just end up buggering about at the margins.

I don't see how it helps. The government seems to think that in the absence of selection or fees, choice should be facilitated by allowing the successful school to expand and the failing ones to collapse.

But even in the limited choice we have in the present system, there are already signs it is unsustainable. For instance, I'm presently in Europe's biggest school. It's insanely big. I reckon you'd have to go to Brazil or somewhere to find a bigger school. Does Brazil have big schools? I wouldn't know but they've got a lot of people so one of this size might be appropriate.

In a country like Scotland, on the other hand, it's just plain silly. I mean, how much bigger is this one supposed to get? Plus it selects according to religious confession. This limits its size, which is good - but it doesn't make much sense, does it?

And why does no-one in the CBI or the government twig that the slippage of education standards is related to the extent to which successive administrations have accumulated power to the centre and attempted to micro-manage not only schools but the classrooms too?

Anyway, all the walking I'm doing getting lost in this goddam building is knackering me so posting will be a bit light for a few days.

Meanwhile there's a couple of unrelated but interesting posts on inheritance tax from Chris Dillow. If you like that sort of thing. Which I do. Back later. Away to get some zzzzzzzzzzz.

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