It’s nice that someone is actually carrying out reforms – but where are they leading to? The structure’s changing but what’s really being done to ensure no pupil leaves school virtually illiterate and innumerate? Despite various announcements, the outlook’s not that much clearer than the view from Mount Olympos when afternoon clouds descend.
Slow learners need very individual attention. It seems that average class sizes are small but that may be because specialist teachers of some languages have few pupils – and other classes have more than 30. If a child comes from Seychelles at the age of seven and can’t understand properly because the teacher’s using Kreol not English, there’s a problem. Not that there’s any sign of anyone daring to tackle the general language issue. Incidentally, Mark Zuckerberg was an enthusiastic student of Classical Greek – and look at the result! A multimillionaire. In view of IT’s importance to the economy, that might give you food for thought.
How about a revolution? Unsuccessful ZEP schools could be handed over to NGOs already providing support classes – if the new CSR rules have left them with any funds. Instead of fiddling about, the recent changes need scrapping. U-turns may be inadvisable on main roads but can be sensible in politics, despite the hot air they produce. At worst, there’ll only be yet another walkout for a breath of fresh Port-Louis troposphere.
The general background’s even murkier. Gaia has no spare resources and can’t understand the suicidal calls for endless economic growth and larger families. And no-one’s asked the Admirables if a high-income economy is what they really want. There’s poverty in even the richest country and, anyway, Gaia never designed humans to live surrounded by concrete.
The biggest doubt is what happens in years seven to nine. The Germans have many excellent vocationally-orientated secondary schools. A study trip there could be jolly useful, not just for the perdiems. As for the modern mantra that it’s unethical to let children under 16 work, providing they also have time to study, what better way is there to learn entrepreneurship than helping parents in their shops, restaurants or other trades? Solon wisely encouraged fathers to provide their sons with a vocational education if they couldn’t afford a formal one so they could be fully active in society. As Aristotle said : “The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal.” Part-time apprenticeships from an early age would awaken enthusiasm amongst youngsters who don’t have a bookish aptitude. Class discussions or the year six exam could ask some open questions about where students’ interests lie as part of developing their ability to think, instead of just testing rote-learning. That may be important but it’s far from everything.
Instead, a lot more imagination is needed. We’ll know you’re making satisfactory progress when we join PISA, which has nothing to do with the Mentor’s ad-hoc activities but is a worldwide assessment of 15-year-old students’ levels of attainment. You might also have some teachers assessed at the same time, perhaps with an externally-regulated pre-registration test like would-be doctors.
By the way, with falling school numbers and Judge Paul’s likely candidates for admission to Melrose, you might hand over a redundant school building to the Prison Service. There’d be no danger of an appeal to the Privy Council, and it would be like just another druggy heaven for many of the new inmates – and their lawyers.