Thursday, 13 December 2007


The ever-superb Ministry of Truth is onto the story of that physics teacher who a while ago wrote an open letter to the authorities, demanding his subject back.

After the privatization of the exam boards, it should be thoroughly unsurprising that the exams have gotten easier - the boards are competing against each other. And since the GCSE is a fixed standard (or rather, they aren't allowed to call theirs "GCSE++"), there are two ways to compete to attract submissions: firstly by streamlining business processs and becoming more efficient, which is what the market was introduced to encourage but is, in practice, difficult and subject to diminishing returns, and secondly by making their exams easier so that schools that want to boost their kids' grades will pick them over the competition.

This may appear to be a bug in the system, but it might perhaps be a feature - the people in charge of the privatization might have thought at the time that gradually rising grades would make the government look good. It has, of course, just led to complaints of dumbing down. And ruined the secondary education of millions of children.

This is exactly why politicians shouldn't be able to control anything to do with education except for the budget. I'd rather have a separate executive making decisions on how to spend its budget to best benefit the children under its control than the current highly-politicized mess.

The preferred option around these parts is vouchers or equivalent. In that circumstance, though, we also need to make sure that there is either a well-understood market for qualifications, or that there is some kind of (government-run?) qualifications rating bureau that will rate qualifications against each other so that parents know what they are choosing for their children, and crucially so that employers and universities can differentiate between the poor, mediocre, good, great, and geniuses.

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