Lies that are repeated often enough are inclined to convince, even, the liar, of their veracity. It is difficult, however, to cover up the truth forever. This is a problem that is beginning to confront our self-congratulatory education establishment, the ‘Blob’, and its mouthpieces in the Department for Education. For all the exaggerated and ridiculous claims about the “best generation of teachers ever” teaching the highest achieving pupils ever, a dark cloud of reality is beginning to emerge.
The OECD has published a new report on the literacy and the numeracy attainment of 16 to 19-year-olds across 23 developed countries. England comes bottom of the list for literacy and second from bottom for numeracy. This, more or less, gives England the educational status of ‘hopeless’ and close to being ‘beyond repair’. Remarkably, the Department for Education’s response has been to tell is us, once again, how well it has been doing. We “are pleased”, it commented, that “the OECD recognises the progress we have made…” .
If bottom position on international league tables of attainment constitutes “progress” one has to wonder whether the description ‘delusional’ is adequate to describe the government department that has responsibility for our schools. Placing so many pupils on a kind of educational death row to illiteracy, innumeracy and unemployment is a wicked betrayal of young people. It is, also, has the potential seriously to undermine our economy. It is evident that should the supply of skilled immigrant labour ever dry up, it would be disastrous for many employers.
Nor can we draw much real comfort from the ever-increasing supply of home-grown graduates. Twenty per cent of them cannot go beyond basic tasks and 3.4 per cent had difficulty coping with the instructions on an aspirin bottle! All the ‘hype’ about widening access to university and the consequent explosion in graduate numbers is proving to be point-scoring political rhetoric, devoid of integrity or honesty.
Perhaps, it is time to question the ‘guilty’ men and women who have been leading our educational system along a path paved with false promises and complacency since, at least, the mid-1980s. What on earth did education ministers think they were doing? Why was the inspectorate a watchdog that did not bark? What made the exam boards think they could get away with diluting standards in order to inflate grades? What has been going on in our teacher-training institutions? Why have able and honest teachers been afraid to speak out?
It is time for some answers! We need a royal commission of inquiry into education and one that is not controlled by the ‘Blob’!