Wednesday, 5 December 2007

So much for 'education, education, education'

According to the OECD, the educational attainment of Britain's 15 year olds is dropping down the world rankings. This does not bode well for the future.

I think the problem is deeper than that envisaged by David Laws or Michael Gove, though. The problem is not that of the 'educational establishment', or teachers, or schools, or investment, per se. I don't actually think we would be ranked quite so lowly were that the case.

The problem is society. We have a culture in which it is too easy not to work hard: I don't just mean the chav drop outs; I mean the middle class kids who cruise through dumbed-down exam after dumbed-down exam until they run into the brick wall of life in the real world. I mean the aspirations of many teenage girls to become single mothers in order to get council houses. And that is true.

And it is not always illogical. With property prices as they are; someone with modest earning potential knows that it is next-to-impossible for them to aspire to home ownership, unless... you know the script. Every time one of the tabloids rants about the scrounging family with 20 kids who have moved into a mansion converted out of six council houses, all at the taxpayers' expense, they are getting the wrong targets. The problem is much deeper and more complex. Far from being feckless parasites, these people are pursuing enlightened self-interest. They understand the workings of the market place and they make the right choices for them.

All of which is not conducive to education. Kids turn up at school knowing all of their rights and none of the associated responsibilities. "I'll get you done for that!" is hurled at teachers as a threat. Parents who do not notice when their little darlings post pornography of themselves on social networking sites will be the first to ring up and complain when a 'paedo' (who could be anyone from the bus driver to a concerned head teacher) so much as looks at them.

The kids who turn up without pens and pencils; the kids who never do homework and whose parents do not respond when letters are sent home; the alcohol and drug abuse; the sexual promiscuity; the kids who cannot be excluded because head teachers do not want to admit they have problems in their school or because they are not allowed to by the local authority or who are pressured by Government targets to conceal problems.

The knowledge that Waynes and Waynettas get more money on the dole than Asian sweatshop workers earn for 80 hour weeks so that we can buy consumer goods ever more cheaply.

The knowledge that the Nanny State ensures there is always a 'second chance' and a third, fourth, fifth...

The knowledge that when pupils fail exams, it is teachers who are blamed by kids, by parents, by head teachers, by local authorities, by Government. So they coach kids to pass national assessments, and to hell with trying to turn out balanced citizens.

The parents who never come to parent evenings; the fundraising events which fall flat because of lack of support because in the Nanny State the state should provide everything.

The broken homes where kids don't know who their dad is; or have six half-siblings all by different fathers.

The kids who feel they have a right to text their friends or listen to their Ipods during lessons.

The kids who put vile videos on Youtube, showing teachers being abused.

The teachers whose careers are ruined because of pupils' lies.

The schools which employ a dozen translators for parents' nights, because of parents who do not bother to learn English and cannot communicate with teachers or their own kids.

I could go on. The list is endless. This is why education is failing in this country - not because of the education system, but because this country doesn't function any more. And politicians don't have the balls to say it, because there aren't any votes in it. All that works, politically, is to throw more billions at the problem to pretend it isn't there any more.

The Emperor has no clothes. Someone needs to say it.

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