Thursday 1 May 2014

Mismatch between international education league table and the realities of the economy.

I'm having an OECD, PISA educational league tables moment. Or, to be more precise: an OECD, PISA, educational league tables AND UK politicians moment.

There is a mismatch between the politicians' constant league-table-itis, going on about how 'we' are slipping down or up or standing still and how this is entirely due to this or that educational method, this or that party in power, this or that structure of schools...and so on. Most of it is bullshit because the tables do not compare like with like, they never tell us whether the differences in position on the league table are 'significant' or not, and the factors they try to correlate the league table positions with  (eg who is in power, or educational method) are usually so nebulous, or so specific, that they can't relate to one year's sample testing.

All that to one side, isn't there a mismatch between what is going on in the economy and what the league tables are supposedly about which is, in theory, higher and higher achievement and standards. So, on the one hand, we have an economy being made attractive to employers by creating a low-pay labour force, many of whom are on zero-hour contracts, or so-called 'self-employed' but are in reality part-time receivers of low fees.

So, in reality Tory austerity Britain is not looking for a high-skills, high achieving population as a whole. It's looking for a large sector who will passively accept low income. 

Now the question is how does a government 'achieve' that? 

One way is to create an education system which pretends to reward all the pupils with the possibility of getting to know a lot and to get great grades, whilst hiding from them that the system pre-judges how many will pass, and through subtle systems of selection, exclusion, private education, pretty well guarantees who will get those great grades.

Meanwhile, great grades or not, wealth itself is not only restricted to a tiny, tiny minority, it largely stays in the hands of those families who inherit that wealth.

Then, back with the idea of a high-skill economy. Surely an economy that is skewed towards financial services and gambling - sorry I mean lending money - it is not based on 'high skills'. I met a banker who had made millions during the bubble and he was clearly bright and a bit of a wide boy but one thing he wasn't was 'high skill' in the sense that educationalists mean. He didn't have a vast array of knowledge and skills to do with science, the humanities or technology. Quite the opposite. He was someone who had learned very quickly how to blag and lie. What he had done is learn how to sell debt packages in a way that people didn't know they were buying them. He had the skills of a market stall holder who sells crap whilst telling people that he's selling top quality gear.

As I say, there's a mismatch between high-achievement propaganda linked to international league tables, and the realities of the economy.