Tuesday, May 09, 2006


If there is one fact about modern Britain that should cause us more shock and disappointment than any other, it is that social mobility seems to be declining. Politicians all talk about spreading opportunity, but we are failing to deliver. This is shocking because we are so used to thinking of social trends inexorably pushing us to become a more open and mobile society "classless", with "opportunities for all", as we politicians like to say. So what is going on?

The figures show that a boy born to parents in the poorest quarter of the population in 1958 had a 31% chance of still being there aged 33 and a 17% chance of being in the top quartile. By 1970, those figures had worsened: a boy born in the bottom quartile had a 38% chance of staying put and just a 16% chance of moving into the top quartile.

If social mobility is still declining, many people assume that education must be the culprit. Gordon Brown focused attention on universities in 2000 with his notorious intervention in the Laura Spence affair.

Britain over the past 20 years has seen a big increase in the earnings of graduates relative to non-graduates. But it looks as though the expansion in higher education has meant more places for students from more affluent backgrounds rather than students from poorer backgrounds. The chances of a child from a high-income family getting a degree are still much greater than those for a child from a low-income background. So the expansion of higher education has not increased social mobility but, if anything, has contributed to its decline.

There is clearly much that education can do: it is incredibly frustrating that despite the best efforts of successive governments to try to improve educational standards, the contribution of education towards social mobility is, if anything, going backwards. Can we offer any further explanation of all this, beyond the continuing failings of our education system?

There is one powerful explanation. The enormous expansion of education, especially higher education, must by definition have succeeded in bringing extra opportunities to many more to gain university qualifications than ever before. The assumption was that this would mean more students from modest backgrounds. But in reality the main beneficiaries have been a different, though equally meritorious, group.

The biggest single group of beneficiaries from the expansion of higher education have been young women, often from higher-income backgrounds, even if ones that would not previously have sent daughters to higher education. In 1974, 145,000 men and 75,000 women went to university. So there was a total of 220,000 university students with almost twice as many men as women. Since then, of course, polytechnics have become universities, increasing the number of university students at a stroke by several hundred thousand. But the trend has carried on upwards as well. Thirty years later, in 2004, the number of male university students quadrupled to 650,000. But the number of female university students increased twelvefold to 950,000. Now there are one and a half times as many female students as men. The expansion of education has helped both men and women. But it has had a far greater impact on women than on men.

The women who have above all benefited from this expansion are those from more affluent backgrounds. If anything, the gap between the chances of a girl from a high-income background getting to university as against a girl from a low-income background has actually widened.

More here

Push for plain English in one Australian school system

Post-modernist "mumbo jumbo" is on the way out of Queensland's controversial English syllabus. Education Minister Rod Welford said students as young as Year 8 were being presented with "incomprehensible gobbledegook" that was not being explained to them in plain English. Mr Welford said he wanted to see improvements by the time the new junior and senior syllabuses were fully implemented in 2008. "We want plain English guidelines going to teachers so they can get on with teaching and ensuring students have the knowledge and skills they need," Mr Welford said. "What's wrong with teaching kids to communicate clearly in plain English?"

The Queensland Studies Authority last year appointed independent Sunshine Coast-based educational consultant Ray Land, 53, a former English-social science teacher and education official, to review the preschool to Year 10 syllabus. Mr Land, who found curriculum jargon more of an issue in the primary syllabus than in the secondary syllabus, has completed three out of four stages of his year-long review and his final report is due next month. While unable to pre-empt his report or recommendations, Mr Land has found major variations between schools, English programs and student proficiency levels. While some schools were doing four novels a year, others were doing one and more plays, films, poetry or study of media texts. Some schools, including Thursday Island High School, studied Shakespeare up to Year 10 while others did not.

Mr Land said some measure of critical analysis would remain part of English. It always had been since the earliest days of literary criticism, he said. "But I think deconstruction itself and the jargon is on the way out," he said.

Mr Land found that between a third and a quarter of secondary students up to Year 10 were studying English, not as a traditional subject called English but as part of wider integrated studies courses, where it was linked to a subject such as study of society and the environment. "There a range of reasons for this, including staff shortages in growth areas like Hervey Bay," Mr Land said. "Most English teachers are also qualified to teach in the social sciences. A third issue is the continuity. Students are familiar with an integrated approach at primary school." He said the quality of such integrated studies programs varied and depended on how they were put together and taught, as did all English courses.

Mr Land has found that teachers and school administrators get "a bit chary" at any suggestion that lists of set or suggested novels, plays and poetry be included in the English curriculum. Mr Land is unsure, at this stage, whether he will recommend that a list of suggested reading be included in the English curriculum. He said many schools covered a wide range of works and studied good books in depth. "But about this, it is fair to say that some don't get it right," he said. Mr Land said different schools should have the freedom to select material that best suited their particular students, and the problem with every pupil studying a couple of set books was that it was impossible to suit all tastes and often too difficult to obtain sufficient numbers of the books.

Asked whether it was appropriate for lower secondary students to spend most of a term studying magazines like Dolly or Girlfriend, he said too much deconstruction of such material "becomes tedious and boring". "At the same time, banning them or asking students not to read them just privileges them with the kids," he said. "Balance is what is important."



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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