When the OECD/PISA tables and results were revealed in October, I felt uncomfortable. They appeared to show that the education system I had been working in for so many years wasn’t doing very well at all. In fact a former student contacted me on Facebook and asked me for a comment: I had nothing. Somehow, the story is in the news again and this time Gove and Hunt are arguing with each other over whose fault it all is, whilst Michael Wilshaw is using it to promote his latest call, for testing to be reinstated at 7 and 13 (indeed, every year, as far as I can make out).
Originally, I felt uneasy about the validity of it all and now, it seems, I was right to be. Whilst the right-wing commentators are having a field day, lots of others have just swallowed it all and are spouting grotesque caricatures (“none of our children can read or add up,” was one insulting snippet I came across in a so-called ‘quality’ paper the other day), but, if you look, there is a body of thoughtful criticism building up.
Please take a look at Peter Wilby’s piece from the Guardian. He firstly critiques the methodology and even the integrity of the tests and how they were administered. He then goes on to question the conclusions being drawn, even if the results are an accurate reflection of which education regimes are better than others. Do we really want our children to effectively lose their childhood and be as miserable as those in South Korea? And how good is the narrow focus of such education?
The ‘failure’ of our system, as ‘evidenced’ by the PISA outcomes appears now to have become accepted ‘fact’ so it is important for us all to continue to make these points. Our system isn’t perfect, but by using this so-called independent evidence, those in the current government, and their supporters, will try to justify all their crazy ideas for ‘fixing it’.