National Standards Mk 2?

Written By: - Date published: 2:15 pm, March 7th, 2010 - 14 comments
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Michael Gove, Britain’s Conservative shadow Children’s Minister, has unveiled their version of National standards. Like Anne Tolley, he is sure he knows what parents want. The Times reports:

‘I’m an unashamed traditionalist when it comes to the curriculum,’ Mr Gove said. ‘Most parents would rather their children had a traditional education, with children sitting in rows, learning the kings and queens of England, the great works of literature, proper mental arithmetic, algebra by the age of 11, modern foreign languages. That’s the best training of the mind and that’s how children will be able to compete.’

He said that too much of the curriculum was about ‘airy fairy’ goals rather than hard facts. ‘I was amazed to discover that science is not divided into physics, chemistry and biology. It has these hybrid headings about the chemical and material whatever and the Earth, the environment and this and that.’

History should be taught ‘in order — it’s a narrative,’ Mr Gove said. Lessons should celebrate rather than denigrate Britain’s role through the ages, including the Empire. ‘Guilt about Britain’s past is misplaced.’

Gove aims to involve Prince Charles:

The Prince of Wales has expressed concern about the dumbing down of the curriculum. Traditional subjects are increasingly being replaced with themed lessons on social issues such as global warming, and children are encouraged to learn blogging instead of historical dates and classic books.

‘I’m a huge fan of the Prince’s Teaching Institute,’ Mr Gove said. ‘What Prince Charles has done is affirmed the real importance of subject knowledge. He’s absolutely right in saying that what draws people into teaching is that they love history or physics, and they want to communicate that love. They don’t love abstract thinking skills; they love the thrill of discovery in their own special field. We definitely want the Prince’s Teaching Institute to help.’

Politicians and princes should stay out of other people’s education in my view. Especially if the history is biased and the subject matter is out of date. And in our case, if the teachers have serious doubts about the methodology.

14 comments on “National Standards Mk 2?”

  1. greenfly 1

    Can we please have fingernail and handkerchief inspections again? And hem-length checks with a ruler .

    Pleeeeeeease !!!

    (Think of the children!)

  2. Draco T Bastard 2

    I’m an unashamed traditionalist when it comes to the curriculum,’ Mr Gove said. “Most parents would rather their children had a traditional education, with children sitting in rows, learning the kings and queens of England, the great works of literature, proper mental arithmetic, algebra by the age of 11, modern foreign languages. That’s the best training of the mind and that’s how children will be able to compete.’

    No it’s not and the reason why, many years ago, I decided that if I ever had children I wouldn’t be sending them to school. It took me awhile but I finally realised that going to school had inhibited my ability to think and learn. I was really good at remembering things though.

  3. Bill 3

    No idea where Gove was educated but what I remember of primary school education….and I admit I’m going back a bit here which must count as ‘traditional’ to some degree, bears no relation to the crap he’s banging on about. In addition to the reading and the writing and the sums, I remember the following

    Greek mythology via the radio which we then acted out in class plays.
    Individual projects…volcanoes, dinosaurs, ‘lions, tigers and bears’ or whatever you fancied which you set your own direction on. Kings and Queens by rote. But there was a lot of Roman invasion stuff and Boadicea as well as French invasions etc. I recall stuff about the industrialisation or mechanisation of production too…mining and what not. Stories of Victorian explorers…Livingstone etc.
    Contemporary class projects included the flora, fauna and geography of Australia, Canada etc. Oil discovery and exploration etc.
    Hands on nature stuff and growing stuff and art stuff.

    Physics and chemistry and biology as well as more advanced branches of maths, not to mention foreign languages were not taught as distinct subjects in primary school…they might have come up as elements of something else, but there was no dedicated teaching of them that I recall.

    And it was all kind of fun and very traditional…which, as far as I can tell, persists today. Worth noting that even in Britain, only English children are subjected to the English education system. Yet here we are, half way around the world…

  4. Rex Widerstrom 4

    Politicians and princes should stay out of other people’s education in my view

    Does that include left wing politicians like Australian Labor’s Julia Gillard, who told the ABC’s Lateline:

    We will have, ultimately, national standards against which teachers around the nation can accredit to show that they are teachers of superior skill…

    and has introduced the “My School” website that shes says will:

    …compare schools that are serving similar student populations. That is telling you something powerful. Because if they’re teaching similar kids, and one’s going streets ahead, there’s best practice from that school to share. If one school’s falling behind, then there’s underperformance there that we need to make a difference to (Urgh, ending a sentence on a preposition… luckily she’s not being ranked on grammar).

    I’m not scoring political points here, quite the opposite (gawd knows I’d rather Gillard in charge of my kids’ education system than Tolley). I’m pointing out that there seems to be increasing acceptance of the need for some form of performance measurement and management of teaching in schools and that most governments who wish to implement this look to national standards and some form of performance ranking to do so.

    That “teachers have serious doubts about the methodology” is really neither here nor there. I’m sure most politicians have “serious doubts about the methodology” of elections and really think they’re the best people to be left there to rule for life. No one likes being performance managed, but teachers can’t expect to be immune, nor to rely solely on peer review.

    • RedLogix 4.1

      No one likes being performance managed, but teachers can’t expect to be immune, nor to rely solely on peer review.

      Or maybe ‘performance management’ simply too often turns out to be a pile of timewasting bs, or a stick to bully and beat with.

      Personally I’ve always found it best to say to people, “This is the kind of result I need, here are the tools I think you need (let me know if you think I’m wrong)… and I’m trusting you to do your professional best”.

      It’s what headmasters are supposed to do… not remote box-ticking bureaucrats..

      • Bill 4.1.1

        So maybe a ‘Curriculum for Excellence’ developed in an environment “where no one argued for a more prescriptive national system” would be good? Maybe a curriculum that offered aspirational guidelines that sought to enable all children to develop their capacities as successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors to society? And maybe assessments and certifications that supported learning rather than learning being determined by assessments and certifications?

        It already exists.

        I’ve pasted below some of the values that underpin it…and yes, I know it’s just words, but those previous discussions here about ‘civics’ and the possibility of civics being incorporated into a curriculum came to mind… Anyway. If education is your passion, you might have a lot of useful reading ahead of you through the links…or then, maybe the details make a mockery of the fine sentiments expressed in the overviews. I wouldn’t know.

        “Wisdom, justice, compassion and integrity: the words which are inscribed on the mace of the Scottish Parliament have helped to define values for our democracy.

        It is one of the prime purposes of education to make our young people aware of the values on which Scottish society is based and so help them to establish their own stances on matters of social justice and personal and collective responsibility. Young people therefore need to learn about and develop these values. The curriculum is an important means through which this personal development should be encouraged.

        To achieve this, the curriculum:

        * should enable all young people to benefit from their education, supporting them
        in different ways to achieve their potential
        * must value the learning and achievements of all young people and promote high aspirations and ambition
        * should emphasise the rights and responsibilities of individuals and nations.
        It should help young people to understand diverse cultures and beliefs and
        support them in developing concern, tolerance, care and respect for themselves and others
        * must enable young people to build up a strong foundation of knowledge and understanding and promote a commitment to considered judgement and ethical action
        * should give young people the confidence, attributes and capabilities to make valuable contributions to society

        In essence, it must be inclusive, be a stimulus for personal achievement and, through the broadening of pupils’ experience of the world, be an encouragement towards informed and responsible citizenship.”

  5. Paul3 5

    National Standards at least initially were not about teachers or performance management but rather about raising achievement. It was only when it was clearly shown that they would do bugger all for kids that this became about teacher and union bashing.

  6. I look at my education, and what stuck, and what didn’t, and I ook at the teacehrs that influenced my own children, and, traditional as it may be, the defining factor was the quality of the teacher. Sure, structure, curriculum etc contribute, but a committed, professional teacher, knowledgeable in their subject and able to communicate both substance and enthusiasm, is, for me, the key factor. Ms Tolley can play politics with her standards (as can Mr Gove and Ms Gillard) but renewed emphasis on the quality and commitment of the entrant teacher is what will make the long-term difference. And, whilst good pay is one factor, the respect and support of the community is more important in ensuring that intake, which is why Ms Tolley and her crew, with their incessant sniping at teachers, and their naked support for the private sector, will do real damage to our education system.

    • Of course, I never learnt to type,,,,,”look” and “teachers” in the first line.

    • Draco T Bastard 6.2

      Yep, the attitude from the political right toward teachers is disgusting and is summed up in their delusional little rant “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach”. Slimy little simplistic saying that shows the level of their intellectual development, ie, not much past primary. When they’re in government it really must make people who are considering teaching to think twice and, for some just, not go there.

  7. Zaphod Beeblebrox 7

    I really don’t see what was so great about nineteenth century teaching standards. From what I have seen of the current generation they are really smart- I always ask my kids to fix my frozen computer or what I should think about three moves in advance when playing chess.

    So what if they can conjugate the third infinitive verb, they don’t seem to need a 150 year old education system to learn how to think.

    • Ag 7.1

      Being able to fix a computer or make a move in chess has very little general value. Chess is just a game, and computer repair is a skill that not everyone needs (similarly, not everybody needs to be a competent plumber or electrician).

      However, everyone is a voter, and thus will be part of collective decisions on social and political issues. For example, New Zealand may consider altering its laws on euthanasia and assisted suicide. Such cases require a national dialogue, if the result is to be optimal.

      New Zealand children may be able to repair computers and play chess, but they are hopeless at moral reasoning. When it comes to this, they lack the required historical knowledge, the sensitivity to intricacies of meaning, the capacity to apply logic, the ability to deal rationally with vagueness, and to fully consider consequences. They lack these things because the high school teaching of humanities long ago abandoned genuine rigour. A traditional classical education in the humanities is difficult, but it does give students these capacities. Yes it is hard work, but that’s the point.

      It’s funny how our schooling system won’t tolerate mathematical or scientific error, but actively encourages lazy and sloppy thinking on the grounds that it is “creative”.

  8. 8

    The crucial element missing in Goves package is saluting the flag each morning. That’ll solve all the ills of Britain simultaneously overnight.

    • Bill 8.1

      Can’t see the Welsh, or anyone bar the English taking to that one very well George. Might be a tad incendiary… and so might well be the solving of Britains’ ills now I think about it.

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