Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Now tanning courses are 'equal' to a High School mathematics qualification in Britain

Courses in tanning are worth the same in school league tables as A-level maths papers, it emerged yesterday. Ministers have relaxed the rules to allow schools and colleges to count a host of practical qualifications towards their league rankings, alongside GCSEs and A-levels. It has led to courses in cake decoration, pottery and flower-arranging also being given an equivalent value to traditional qualifications.

But exam watchdog Ofqual has expressed concern over whether self-tanning courses should be equivalent to A-level units. 'We begin to wonder whether it really stands up against A-level maths,' said Isabel Nisbet, Ofqual's acting chief executive. [A remarkable example of understatement!]

A merit in an ITEC diploma in 'tanning treatments' is worth 45 points in school league tables - the same as an A grade in one of the six units that make up an A-level. The 72-hour course teaches students aged 16 and over to operate sunbeds and apply fake tan without streaks and stripes. It has been awarded a 'level three' status in the qualifications database - the designated A-level standard. Other courses given level three status and league table points include a City and Guilds' certificate in self-tanning'. This 30-hour course accrues between 16.5 and 27 points depending on the grade, but is unlikely to be used in tables as it is only for those aged 19 and over.

Ofqual is responsible for accrediting qualifications for the national database. Whitehall then decides whether to assign them a league table points score. But Miss Nisbet, speaking at a recent seminar in London, seemed to raise doubts about accrediting self-tanning courses as level three. Her aides said she chose it as an example of the tough judgments the watchdog must make.

Ministers hoped the wider range of qualifications in league tables would encourage schools to enrol pupils in courses more suited to their ability, 'motivating' them to stay in education or training. But critics say children are being sold short by neglecting traditional qualifications and accuse schools of using the points system to inflate their league table rankings. They also claim A-levels are being undermined and league tables made more confusing.

Tory schools spokesman Nick Gibb said: 'Ofqual are right to raise concerns about these equivalences. 'We have got to stop pretending that things are better than they are, which can have the effect of luring unsuspecting pupils into qualifications that are not really right for them, and may help boost a school's league table position. 'We have got to remove anything that encourages or incentivises schools to manipulate the system.'

Ofqual said the tanning courses were 'primarily taken by those working in the industry'. A spokesman said: 'Points for all approved vocational qualifications are calculated depending on the guided learning hours, the level of the qualification and the level of skill and achievement attained. 'The courses have been carefully considered against these criteria.'


British stupidity of getting more people into university about to be repeated in Australia

So lots of kids attempt courses they cannot handle and people with degrees end up as waiters. Brilliant! Inflation of credential requirements is already a problem so they want to make it worse! Heaps of jobs that were once done with only high school education now require degrees -- meaning that kids spend 3 or 4 years wasting time and not earning or contributing. And if Fred Hilmer -- a cautious bureaucratic type not given to rocking the boat -- thinks it's foolish, then you can be sure it is REALLY foolish

The Bradley review of higher education lacks vision and sets unrealistic and unaffordable goals, the University of NSW vice-chancellor, Fred Hilmer, said in a speech last night. On the eve of a meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, Professor Hilmer said the review failed to provide a vital blueprint for the sector's future. He highlighted the proposed increase in undergraduates as being a huge and uncosted financial burden, saying another six or seven new universities the size of UNSW would be required.

Ms Gillard will meet Professor Hilmer and other members of the elite Group of Eight universities in Sydney. Ms Gillard began the series of six discussions two weeks ago so universities and other stakeholders could respond before the Government's official response to the review.

The former vice-chancellor of the University of South Australia, Denise Bradley, released her review of higher education in December, urging the nation to increase participation in higher levels of education and give fairer access to people from lower socio-economic groups and rural areas.

Professor Hilmer said the Secretary of the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, Lisa Paul, should be appointed to map out the long-term overhaul of the system with full and realistic costings. He said extra funding would ensure the viability of a strained higher education system in the short term by allowing immediate action on problems such as student/staff ratios and research funding shortfalls.

But the blueprint for a highly effective, affordable plan for higher education was missing, Professor Hilmer told the Centre for Independent Studies forum at St Leonards. "The problem is not the themes themselves but the lack of a vision and a clear and affordable path. The proposed path seems to be to recommend processes without a sense of where they might take us, and at what cost," he said.

The Bradley target that 40 per cent of 25-34 year-olds will have attained a qualification at bachelor level would require about "a 70 per cent increase in commencing students annually, 3.2 million additional enrolments over a decade, $15 billion in capital works, the equivalent of about six or seven new universities the size of UNSW, and an additional 17,700 academic staff", Professor Hilmer said.


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