13 April 2007

Comprehensive or Compensative Education?

A recommendation in a report by CIHE (Council for Industry and Higher Education) and LogicaCMG is that 'A'-Level students of certain subjects, in this case Maths, 'hard' Sciences should be paid to study, or so you would think judging by the focus of the BBC. I think it seriously misrepresents the report and its general thrust and by doing so, perpetuates the impression that people need bribery to do anything - that they need handouts and 'incentives' just to do what is right - as if doing anything is not possible unless the State shows its largesse. The Telegraph was not much better. Shame on them.

The role of Science, Maths and Technology in our lives and the great things done by Engineers and inventors should indeed be given more exposure at an earlier age. In that regard I believe Richard Brown of CIHE is right when he says:

"We need to inspire them with the roles they can take on after school and university and demonstrate what they will be able to achieve with a background in these important subjects."

I also think the general mixed ability environment coupled with the chav mentality (originally describing an underclass who actively opposed and crushed learning and desire for achievement in their schoolmates using bullying, social exclusion - the real sort - and intimidation) has alot to do with suppressing the inspirational messages that come from such careers. Streaming children correctly so they can share inspiration and positivism will help prevent such efforts being wasted. It certainly works for sports. It certainly works for The Arts. Let us see it for STEM subjects (and no, not just in 'specialist schools'). The classroom environment is also critical to enable interactive experimentation to re-engage boys and to enable complex subjects to be pursued without constant disruption. I am sure this would feed back into higher numbers of available and inspiring teachers.

As an aside, we should work to prevent the systematic abuse of the term "Engineer" when the correct title of "Technician" should be used.

Focus on higher earnings as highlighted in Burning Our Money would also be a benefit.
Bias in UCAS points for STEM subjects is interesting, but I think they should grasp the psychological nettle and lower the value of certain other subjects instead of inflating the value of STEM subjects. It is symptomatic of this "no losers" mindset, the welfare "hammock" and the constant focus particularly in the media of cash rewards that is eroding achievement.

I really cannot work out the Media sometimes - the focus on the bribery is either to rouse objection or to ingrain the attitude into the "lumpen illitariat".

Paying people to be educated in certain subjects one moment, then paying all except "unwanted" subjects. Demanding people are in education, stopping them working unless they study and then controlling what subjects derive income...you can see where this could lead.


Matthew Huntbach said...

Your mention of UCAS points suggests a widely held misbelief - that university admissions tutors simply ask for a certain number of UCAS points regardless of how those points were arrived at.

Having been the admissions tutor for my university department for many years, I can assure you that is not the case. In my subject (Computer Science) we were quite clear that a lower UCAS point score including useful subjects, like Matehmatics would get you a place, whereas a higher UCSAS score including useless subjects like "Information Technology" would not.

I was opposed to the UCAS points scheme when it was first suggested because I could see where it would lead to. Thankfully, at present, admissions tutors are allowed to use their own judgement, and set their own condition for applicants. We are not forced to abide by some politically correct ruling which says that just because qualification X has been deemed to have the same number of UCAS points as qualification Y, we must treat it the same.

Roger Thornhill said...

Maybe then this is the step - bring in centralised weighting then enforce that weighting...chilling.