Scotland’s SNP government likes to stress its separateness from England. In the field of education, however, it has been utterly seduced, bewitched and conned, by failed ideologies emanating from south of the border. Its “Curriculum for Excellence” is a declaration of faith in a knowledge-lite, pseudo skills and concept-based pedagogy that is centred on cross-curricular project-based learning that has demonstrably failed in England.
As education secretary down south, Michael Gove was perceptive enough, and brave enough, to sound the alarm. His reforms were aimed at reversing the dilution of knowledge in both the National Curriculum and in the public examination system. Vigorously opposed by the educational establishment, the Blob, David Cameron rewarded him for his efforts with the order of the boot. The former prime minister had been advised that there was no beating the Blob and that his education secretary would have to go.
Gove’s work remains unfinished and is, already being subverted, but he, at least, pushed English schools in a direction that may one day allow them to contemplate competing with the best around the globe. He did, at least, challenge the failed orthodoxies being promoted by the Blob.
In contrast, and in an extraordinary demonstration of self-delusion and stupidity, the Scottish government has taken its schools in the opposite direction. It has fallen for the England’s Blob orthodoxies – hook, line and sinker.
The “Curriculum for Excellence” is Scotland’s educational suicide note. It is a curriculum for failure. Already we are seeing the direction of travel of Scottish education. Standards of literacy and numeracy are falling. According to the Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy, for example, reading standards among 8 and 9-year-olds fell by 5 per cent between 2012 and 2015. A decline was also found among other age groups.
The current SNP government has been transfixed and mesmerised by the spell of fake ‘best practice’ in schools south of the border. It has caught the ‘English disease’ in matters educational and Scottish youngsters are beginning to pay a heavy price.
In a state of bewilderment and panic, the Scottish government has recently set up a 10-strong panel of international education experts to advise them on what to do. Four of the ten come from countries that are slipping down the PISA international league tables of educational attainment – England, Canada, USA and Finland. Malaysia, which also has an adviser on the panel, came in a lowly 52nd position. An adviser from Singapore has been included, which is commendable, but there are none from other Asia-Pacific educational super-star states.
It is laughable that Scotland should seek education advice from the USA, where the education system is widely regarded as broken. If you want the best advice you go for the top 10 in the world and not even highly regarded Finland makes the top 10 for maths.
If the Scottish government really wishes to learn from other countries, it should study the reasons behind the relative collapse of standards in England over the past few decades. By refusing to break its addiction to the English way of educating school children, the Scottish government is burying its head in the sand, betraying its younger generation and robbing Scotland of a prosperous and successful future. Meanwhile, ministers in London are finally beginning to understand that an antidote to the English education disease may lie in the best that the Asia-Pacific has to offer.