Educational Underachievement-Part 1: Are Protestants getting left behind in education? The statistically based answer is an emphatic ‘No’

18 views

Since the publication of the third Peace Monitoring Report by Paul Nolan earlier this month, the issue of the educational performance of working class protestant boys has been centre stage. Yet the two inconvenient but still overarching statistics that should define the parameters of this discussion have largely been ignored:

Firstly, that the actual attainment gap between Catholics and Protestants is quite small, with 63% of Catholic pupils and 60% of Protestant pupils securing 5 ‘good’ GCSEs (more on that deployment of the adjective ‘good’ later on in this series.)

Secondly, that Catholics form the overwhelming majority of all children entitled to Free School Meals failing to obtain five ‘good’ GCSEs.

In the academic year 2011/12 (the year in which the statistics included in Nolan’s report were recorded and repeatedly cited since, the most recent from which NISRA generated data can be publicly obtained), 1,329 boys entitled to free school meals (FSM) failed to achieve the minimum academic requirement of 5 ‘good’ GCSEs. Of those boys, 835 (62.8%) were Catholic.

When girls entitled to FSM are included, a total of 2,405 Catholic and Protestant children entitled to FSM failed to obtain 5 ‘good’ GCSEs, with 1,552 (64.5%) of them being Catholic.

The fact that almost 2/3 of children entitled to FSM who fail to obtain 5 good GCSEs are Catholics sits very uncomfortably with the Belfast Telegraph headline (3/4/14) which screamed that ‘Protestants get left behind,’ an erroneous narrative that continues to dominate the local media.

I addressed many of the themes arising from this issue back in an April 2011 article when I noted the narrow sectarian agenda being peddled by the DUP ahead of the Assembly election, when the party pledged to develop a strategy “to assist Protestant working class boys” with no reference to seeking to assist the greater number of Catholic working class boys who fail to reach the basic 5 ‘good’ GCSE qualification threshold.

Introducing a sectarian agenda to the discussion over educational underachievement and low attainment is the surest way of ensuring that the discussion that needs to be had will be lost in the quagmire of our sectarian discourse.

There is an issue of underachievement and low attainment in working class protestant communities, and that must be effectively tackled just as the continuing problem of underachievement and low attainment afflicting the greater number of working class catholic communities must be addressed.

But what must be established from the outset is that the religious background of children should form no part of a schools or community based programme seeking to ensure that all of our children- not least those born into relative socio-economic deprivation- are provided with the support to have the opportunity to realise their full academic potential through our education system.

I intend on addressing some of the key issues which should be informing debate on this topic in subsequent articles in this series to appear in the coming days.

 

  • Charles_Gould

    Interesting post Chris. A few points.

    1. I think the first figure you cite is the most useful: that 63% of Catholic pupils and 60% of Protestant pupils secure 5 ‘good’ GCSEs. This is a meaningful comparison: the entire population of Catholic and Protestant. That said, I would like to know what the figures in look like if you include “other” or “none” in the protestant group (this may be a more professional group so that the 60% might go up; we know there are a lot of “other” and “none” these days)

    2. Another useful comparison is how Catholic and Non-Denominational schools do on average. I have seen the Belfast Telegraph comparison of the “top 5″ schools. But the overall average would be more interesting and representative..

    3. I don’t think your bolded statement (“Catholics form the overwhelming majority of all children entitled to Free School Meals failing to obtain five ‘good’ GCSEs.”) says very much about education; I think it says a lot about the proportion of each religion in very low incomes.

    4. In addition to my point (1) above, it would be interesting to know if the comparison would look the same if you drew the line for “good GCSEs” at different levels.(I hope you will!)

  • Reader

    Chris, good luck with the challenge here – surely we all have an interest in our children getting a good education – a moral, social and economic interest. And the first step is to accurately assess the problem.
    But you’re working uphill on this one – your diagnosis is counter to the recent loyalist mopery and the new flavour of nationalist triumphalism. This thread will attract a trickle of responses, and then everyone will drift back to business as usual.
    Look what you’re up against:
    http://bangordub.wordpress.com/2014/04/09/bangordub-meets-a-taig-with-a-phd/

  • Barnshee

    “I addressed many of the themes arising from this issue back in an April 2011 article when I noted the narrow sectarian agenda being peddled by the DUP ahead of the Assembly election, when the party pledged to develop a strategy “to assist Protestant working class boys” with no reference to seeking to assist the greater number of Catholic working class boys who fail to reach the basic 5 ‘good’ GCSE qualification threshold.”

    Both grouping have been provided with access to a free education system( in the case of the Roman catholic community a system of their free choice )

    I am baffled as to why the fact that some children’s parents pay for school dinner and some do not affect a child’s achievement.. They study a common curriculum As an old uncle used to say “have you considered that it might be your fault” Sometimes it is

  • Reader

    Charles_Gould: I don’t think your bolded statement (“Catholics form the overwhelming majority of all children entitled to Free School Meals failing to obtain five ‘good’ GCSEs.”) says very much about education; I think it says a lot about the proportion of each religion in very low incomes.
    In fact, if only we could isolate other factors (educational sector, culture); the different proportions of FSM in each population compared with academic outcomes would give a clue as to whether deprivation is a *cause* of poor performance in education, or whether these are both common *symptoms* of something else (as suggested by Barnshee).
    We have a ready made laboratory here.

  • Old Mortality

    Poor educational outcomes are just that and should be addressed as such without reference to any social or ethnic category.
    Sadly, the solution will be more elusive. Bad parents are almost certainly the major cause. Are there any attainment statistics for children who have been adopted out of the FSM environment?
    What is indisputable, however, is that if you have never been born you cannot underachieve.

  • iluvni

    Why is average spending per pupil consistently higher in catholic schools than state schools?
    Maybe the Minister could explain.

  • Reader

    iluvni: Why is average spending per pupil consistently higher in catholic schools than state schools?
    Extra money for FSM pupils and a higher proportion of FSM pupils?

  • Zig70

    I thought the Belfast telegraph headlines were in very poor taste.

  • Coll Ciotach

    Has anyone considered that champions breed champions and thus thick people breed thick people? There goes the politically correct vote.

  • tom d

    Chris, usually have respect for your stuff but this post does you no credit. Even on free school meals c. 30% of catholic children get 5 good gcses compared to around 20% of Protestant. All you stat does is say more catholic children are on free school meals. Can’t see what possible good it does for anyone to deny basic facts.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-26855040

  • Pete Baker

    Chris

    Your post would be improved if you explained why you object to the methodology of the Nolan report, rather than the outcomes.

    As for the line that “Catholics form the overwhelming majority of all children entitled to Free School Meals failing to obtain five ‘good’ GCSEs”.

    Do “Catholics form the overwhelming majority of all children entitled to Free School Meal”?

    The Nolan report’s inquiry into the detail of boy/girl Catholic/Protestant FSME remains unchallenged.

  • DoppiaVu

    “But what must be established from the outset is that the religious background of children should form no part of a schools or community based programme…”

    What utter nonsense. Given that we operate two separate schools systems that are divided on religious grounds, it is self-evident that children’s religious background has to be taken into account.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Pete
    I don’t object to the methodology of the Nolan report. Through his approach he highlights that a higher percentage of Protestant children entitled to FSM fail to obtain the minimum qualification threshold of 5 ‘good’ GCSEs, a point which needs to be reflected and acted upon.

    What I am highlighting is that a very clear majority of boys & all pupils who fail to obtain that minimum qualification threshold are, in fact, Catholic, which also must be reflected and acted upon, and which makes a nonsense of the claim that ‘Protestants are getting left behind’- unless, of course, you mean ‘left behind’ with an even greater number of catholics…..

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thank you DoppiaVu, “it is self-evident that children’s religious background has to be taken into account.”

    Now I wonder if Protestant boys were taught to analyse their motivations by having to go to “confession” from an early age would they use the opportunity to develop those skills of self-knowledge and analytical thinking they might just require to excel at secondary school?

  • Charles_Gould

    “What I am highlighting is that a very clear majority of boys & all pupils who fail to obtain that minimum qualification threshold are, in fact, Catholic, ”

    Surely it is the proportion within each group that matters, if the groups are of different sizes?

  • Reader

    SeaanUiNeill: Now I wonder if Protestant boys were taught to analyse their motivations by having to go to “confession” from an early age would they use the opportunity to develop those skills of self-knowledge and analytical thinking they might just require to excel at secondary school?
    I expect that means that atheists must do terribly badly at school. I wonder what the figures say?
    And maybe it isn’t confession that makes the difference. Perhaps the difference in analytical thinking skills comes from believing in Transubstantiation, Intercession and the Assumption, not from confession.
    In any case, the base figures are “…63% of Catholic pupils and 60% of Protestant pupils securing 5 ‘good’ GCSEs…” and this suggests that Protestants, as a group, don’t need quite so much of a boost as you think you are offering.

  • zep

    “Now I wonder if Protestant boys were taught to analyse their motivations by having to go to “confession” from an early age would they use the opportunity to develop those skills of self-knowledge and analytical thinking they might just require to excel at secondary school?”

    What an offensive and bigoted remark.

  • Charles_Gould

    Reader

    “n any case, the base figures are “…63% of Catholic pupils and 60% of Protestant pupils securing 5 ‘good’ GCSEs…” and this suggests that Protestants, as a group, don’t need quite so much of a boost as you think you are offering.”

    I think this the statistic that is easiest to interpret. It is a simple average of two entire populations.

    I’d like to check for sensitivity to the “5″ and the “good” part of 5 good GCSEs, but would not expect to see much sensitivity.

    I would also like to see how people are defining protestant here. Does it mean “protestant and other”. or just “protestant”. Given that its not a binary divide any longer – and a lot of people in the Census are “other” nowadays – I would like to know.

  • Reader

    Charles_Gould: I would also like to see how people are defining protestant here.
    From a quick, inconclusive rummage through the report I think it is just
    Controlled plus Voluntary vs. Maintained
    - which means that today my daughter is away at school doing GCSEs while passing as a Catholic for the purposes of the next PMR report.

  • zep

    Best of luck to her Reader! A stressful time for all involved.

  • Charles_Gould

    Reader

    “From a quick, inconclusive rummage through the report I think it is just Controlled plus Voluntary vs. Maintained”

    If so that is pretty daft on a number of levels.

    But I am not surprised your rummage was inconclusive. The report is very poorly written up. I found a sloppy (and very misleading) approach to definition of variables.

  • Reader

    zep: Best of luck to her Reader! A stressful time for all involved.
    Thanks – I’ll pass this on. However, apparently, as a non-FSM ‘Catholic’ girl in a maintained Grammar school they may as well skip the exams and just give her the certificates…

  • Kensei

    Charles

    Surely it is the proportion within each group that matters, if the groups are of different sizes?

    Sometimes it’s better to present the percentages, sometimes the raw data is more informative. There is no hard and fast rule.

    A percentage here is a statistical measure. A number is an actual person. Chris is right to point out that Catholics also need to improve. Sometimes you see Catholic triumphalism over slight less shit performance. It’s entirely the wrong attitude.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Oh Zep, I really had no intention in any way to offend! I abase myself and will do any reasonable penance for my grievous sin. And its really the first time in about forty years anyone has accused me of being a bigot (to my face at least). So thank you for assisting me in an other little gain in my self-knowledge. But I should reveal, like the Jewish comedian making Jewish jokes, that I speak as one of the “Protestant boys” myself, although I’ve had Lord Bannside for one question this a few times over the years…..

    But perhaps if I unpack what I’m saying for you just a little. You probably didn’t notice that it had a slight tongue in cheek quality, but I suppose that to catch this nuance you need to have the instinctive analytical imagination that comes from having to carry out a form of embryonic self-psyco-analysis as a child. My own habit of self examination for “confession” was learnt in a slightly different tradition to Roman Catholicism, the Anglo-Catholic tradition, (ie: an Anglican/Episcopalian with an addiction to incense) so I made the comment never thinking that a reader might not realise that the tradition of confession and spiritual direction is a common thread in both Catholic and Protestant traditions. So, to clear up any misunderstanding, I’m not actually suggesting that anyone “converts” across the Peace Walls our confessional orthodoxies insist upon. A Protestant can develop the skills of self-examination confession instills without having to stop being a Protestant. He simply needs to develop the habit of examining his motives for doing certain things and making certain choices.

    And, Reader, are there any atheists at our schools? I thought that the required quotas of 50% one “tradition” and 50% the other left no room for atheists. But there’s no reason for atheists in later life to be considered as being entirely outside of the benefits of an early training in self-analysis. Most of the (lapsed Catholic) atheists I know are very glad that they were required to think actions through. They went on from examining their motives for ‘sin’ (any decent Jesuit will object to a simple list of ‘sins’ where the sinner fails to understand why they are sins) to carefully examining doctrine itself!!!! So the skills that self examination develop in a child are quite dangerous skills for a society as rigid in its thinking as our own, especially when people begin to employ them on their own account. But perhaps it would be a very bad thing for people to make a habit of carefully examining their motivations and pre-conceptions?

  • zep

    Why not post that then?

    Tongue-in-cheek works when you can see both tongue and cheek :-p.
    By the by, I don’t think children develop a passion for self-study and critical thinking at the foot of the vicar, priest or imam. ‘It was God what done it’ doesn’t cut the mustard! Better to free your mind then you can grow up to be a boring bastard like me…

  • Reader

    SeaanUiNeill : So the skills that self examination develop in a child are quite dangerous skills for a society as rigid in its thinking as our own, especially when people begin to employ them on their own account.
    There’s some good news and some bad news for you then. The ‘Revised curriculum’, and the ‘Enriched curriculum’ rolled out to primary schools some time ago put a lot of effort into self-examination (goal setting, targets, circle time – all deliberately involving the child in their own education). Those children who have experienced this will be reaching GCSE level soon. Good news?
    Not entirely. While the changes were designed to help the disadvantaged (more precisely, the traditionally disengaged), the pilots seemed to show that it was actually the middle class that benefited most from the changes. Oops. The other wee bit of bad news is that the pilot schemes were targeted at schools with a large proportion of FSM, and the pilot areas should be showing the benefits at GCSE level already. While the report doesn’t go into nearly enough detail to establish this, the figures above certainly hint that the effect was not miraculous.

  • Pete Baker

    It’s worth a reminder of what’s actually revealed when those “base figures” are unpacked properly.

    These are the percentages of the various groups of FSME pupils who attain the equivalent of five GCSEs at A*-C.

    Catholic girls – 43.8%
    Catholic boys – 33.2%
    Protestant girls – 32.4%
    Protestant boys – 19.7%

    That’s against a NI Executive Programme for Government target, for attainment of 5 ‘good’ GSCEs, of 49% of all young people from disadvantaged backgrounds by 2014/15. The current overall attainment level of 5 ‘good’ GCSEs for those from disadvantaged backgrounds stands at 33.9%.

  • Kensei

    So to sum Pete:

    Catholic girls: bad
    Catholic boys, Protestant girls: Awful
    Protestant Boys: Catastrophic

    The 10% difference is certainly worth analysis, as I think Chris has already stated. However if those percentages were on an exam, they’d all receive a failing grade. Any strategy looking at tackling underachievement needs to take into account the entire group.

    As for unpacking properly, there is no such thing. There are simply different ways of looking at data,, depending on the context. “19% of what?” Is a perfectly valid question and it is certainly worthy of note that despite the percentage of population figures, more Catholic boys actually fail than Protestants. I’d hazard a guess there also about a dozen other ways of looking at that data that provide some insight.

  • Charles_Gould

    Ken
    You’re right. They are all doing badly.

    Five gcse at grade C is actually setting the bar low. And to think so few attain that.

  • Reader

    Pete Baker: That’s against a NI Executive Programme for Government target, for attainment of 5 ‘good’ GSCEs, of 49% of all young people from disadvantaged backgrounds by 2014/15.
    The target was surely set at a single level for all 4 groups listed because it was *presumed* that FSM was a suitable proxy measure for either financial disadvantage or (looking through the other end of the telescope) social and economic incompetence. However, we also know that 20% of Protestant and 30% of Catholic children qualify for free school meals, so that difference already shows that the proxy measure is a bit iffy in some respects. We are also comparing the ‘bottom’ 20% of Protestants with the ‘bottom’ 30% of Catholics, and it’s not surprising that they show a different level of achievement.
    We can also tell from the variation in the numbers that the lack of spare cash in the house isn’t the sole cause of educational disadvantage, otherwise the numbers really would be the same for FSM boys and girls, Protestants and Catholics.
    This dataset is crying out for a decent analysis rather than the usual opportunistic pillaging by tribal champions, bleeding heart liberals and stony hearted tories. We really, really need to know what is going on.

  • Zig70

    It’s got nothing to do with Catholic or Protestant. Faith schools worldwide do better, girls do better than boys and academic selection leaves the unselected to rot. Get rid of academic selection and stop being such arses just because SF championed it. Faith school effect is a harder one and just magnified here because of the tribal school system. There are a lot of atheist kids doing well in Catholic schools. It’s probably the effect on the teachers rather than the kids. So the first problem to fix is not Protestant kids, the problem is working class Protestant parents voting for arseholes that want to keep academic selection.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    This thread could use a broadside from Harry Flashman.

    Wherefore art thou Harry?

  • abucs

    The statement :

    “But what must be established from the outset is that the religious background of children should form no part of a schools or community based programme seeking to ensure that all of our children……realise their full academic potential through our education system.”

    is not acceptable.

    If religious background is a factor, or a source of community strength it is entirely sensible that it forms part of such a program. You can’t stick your head in the sand and say I don’t like it, everyone should ignore it.

    If you were to say that “there should not be posturing of political programs based religious background disadvantage where no such disadvantage exists” then I can agree. But that’s not what was said.

  • Reader

    Zig70, just a few wee problems with your analysis:
    1) The maintained sector is also selective.
    2) That isn’t the fault of Prods.
    3) You seem to have ignored Chris’s analysis which suggested it isn’t just one community with a problem. In which case faith-schools, or schools modelled on faith-schools, aren’t the solution.
    4) Selection can hardly be *the* problem – FSM children are mostly not even managing to be selected. The problem, whatever it is, kicks in – brutally – before year 7, and a comprehensive system from year 8 isn’t going to fix it.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Hello Reader: “The ‘Revised curriculum’, and the ‘Enriched curriculum’ rolled out to primary schools some time ago put a lot of effort into self-examination (goal setting, targets, circle time – all deliberately involving the child in their own education).”

    Just another part of the problem so far as I can see. “Involving the children in their own education” is a guided activity with an agenda, in other words its still another power discourse from authority “telling” the children to think for themselves. A bit like telling a manic depressive to simply cheer up! Why the children should start their education disengaged from something that should be able to compellingly link them directly into their rich cultural inheritance is the real issue.

    What I’m seriously interested in here is the unintended consequence of compelling real examination of motive at an early age. Its essentially the dropping of adult thinking into a young mind that stretches it, I find, although its very much kill or cure. My own experience of contemporary education practice is overseeing multi-choice question exams while working as a supply teacher during an extended period of “resting” from my glittering media career. No wonder the recipients are bored out of their heads rather than inspired , but then I’m so ancient I remember the age of exam by analytic essay……

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Hi Reader (again), I cannot agree more: ” Selection can hardly be *the* problem.”

    My other eye-opening experience was to spend an entire lesson frequently simply policing disruption in a classroom. Why does this not happen in schools that practice selection? Its because they select to exclude the disruptive (a simplification, but I don’t want to start a 30,000 word paper)! Simply ensuring that every classroom is permitted to have a seriously disruptive element present solves nothing. I’m not recommending a fossilisation of inherited privilege, I do think that every child should have access to an education equally, but easy fixes such as removing selection do not address the child alienation and disengagement that lie at the heart of the problem!

    Perhaps the progressivist jingle of “education for getting on in life” needs to be thought about, and the whole purpose of education re-considered. Demanding equality of opportunity in a life situation where some of us must improve their lot in life, but only at the expense of their fellows opportunities means that the inequalities that create the alienation in children are structurally perpetuated by the gestalt (whole-picture) of the system. At least the selection system is at least less hypocritical about this (and some teachers can actually teach!!!!)

  • Barnshee

    “My other eye-opening experience was to spend an entire lesson frequently simply policing disruption in a classroom. Why does this not happen in schools that practice selection?”

    Becausethey won`t put up with it.

    Teachers should no be policemen/women or social workers
    There is equality of opportunity in the provision of educational opportunity It is futile to blame someone else for lack of application or ambition before we add in cognitive ability.

    Pupil behaviour??
    As an old headmaster used to say “I think your son (and it was always you “son”) would be happier at another school”

    Pupil behaviour is by far the biggest barrier to academic attainment

    http://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/teacher-blog/2013/mar/26/disruptive-behaviour-management-schools

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Barnshee, I agree fully but with one wee difference. I feel that “equality of opportunity” is a noble aspiration, rather than a fact. And “equal opportunity” will never be possible in a society that enshrines inequality through a culture of competition whose winners are selected as those who will get the big rewards, socially and financially.

    I remember hearing a recording of a pre WW2 exercise instructor coming in still drunk to present her slot on US local radio required her listeners (among other things) to “Lie on your belly with your toes in the air.”

    And yes, it was always “your son”, and as far as I can see nothing has really changed in our ingrained misogynistic culture here! I was writing a television proposal with Trix Worrell (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trix_Worrell) once long ago and we were discussing the rapidly diminishing television roles all through the 1980s and 90s for non-white actors, all shielded under the much vaunted “improvements” of equality legislation. You can have all the “equality legislation” in the world its only as good as the MEN actually implementing it, who “know all the words and have sung all the notes but have never quite learnt the song.”

    Our committees plan educationally for what they discover through statistics rather than for the particular individuals with particular experiences and needs who actually have to go through the educational system. I worry that “involving children in their own education” is simply setting up another layer of tick box bureaucracy rather than inspiring creative and analytical faculties. But that’s nothing new…..

  • Barnshee

    “And “equal opportunity” will never be possible in a society that enshrines inequality through a culture of competition whose winners are selected as those who will get the big rewards, socially and financially.”

    There’s the gate– you have all had the same training now go and jump it -what?– Imelda has trained harder than you?
    What do you want me to do -open the gate?

  • Mick Fealty

    I love the way most of our conversations about Northern Ireland various educational failings appear to assume we’re still in some sort of direct rule vacuum.

    Remind me again which minister is failing to reflect and act upon these findings? As Pete ‘helpfully’ points out, even the highest level of achievement is failing the minister’s own targets.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Yes, Mick, it really gets so very abstract sometimes, mea culpa, mea magna culpa.

    You are right! As the graffiti in California said “The people who are destroying the world have names and faces”….. and Wee John should (at the very least) be getting a desk full of letters, certainly!

    But one last indulgence while I reply to Barnshee’s excellent point above. An old friend of my grandfather, who taught me English once said “You can have education or competition, not both.”

    It’s not “open the gate” its rather that even if Imelda has trained harder, the big bully nurtured on competition will still simply flatten her and use her corpse to make “over the gate” a shorter hop. As Yeats put it:

    “He that’s mounting up, must on his neighbour mount
    And we and all the muses are things of no account.”

    My own experience is not that the best are allowed to flourish in our system, but that the most unscrupulous and brutal clamber to the top over anyone in the way. That’s what competition fosters in its devotees.

    Something else for poor John O’Dowd’s department to consider……

  • Reader

    SeaanUiNeill: It’s not “open the gate” its rather that even if Imelda has trained harder, the big bully nurtured on competition will still simply flatten her and use her corpse to make “over the gate” a shorter hop.
    That’s a misuse of the gate metaphor. In education, the main competition is against the gate. Any bullies that interfere with Imelda’s success will not be finely honed brutal competitors – they will will be the gasping, thrashing losers cluttering up the approach to the gate.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Oh Reader, have you been out there in the cut-throat world of commerce and the media, ever? I found few “losers” amongst the plausible, unscrupulous thugs who had destroyed all competition on their climb to the top of the reward tree. I used to assemble and run creative teams for films, and the demand from my co-producers that I used some ignorant, talentless bully they had interviewed whose forceful self-publicising (and ability to threaten “A” grades from his assessors at University) impressed them more than the soft diffidence that often marks the self-presentation of really creative people. This runs through our entire culture ever since Thatcher trumpeted her own brand of Social Darwinism across the world. In my experience, co-operation is what makes things happen and the culture of the predator we all suffer within, that seems to dominate our school examination system, is counter-productive and wasteful. But I used to be told, “lets try it our way first, then we can try it your way” by producers who wanted to waste the precious shekels from my oh so carefully assessed budgets on employing flashy bullies who produced nothing at all of any value.

    Few of these “A” grade wasters showed any self-knowlege whatsoever, hence my comments in postings above on the need to develop qualities of real insight in the young rather than gate jumping tests of, usually, just gate jumping.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Oh yes, Reader, “they will will be the gasping, thrashing losers cluttering up the approach to the gate.”

    Sure, them too!!! But everyone can usually see them coming a mile off, its the clever bullies who take their agression a few notches higher that I’m talking about, and Imelda is just as flat under their boots!!!!

  • Barnshee

    “I used some ignorant, talentless bully they had interviewed whose forceful self-publicising (and ability to threaten “A” grades from his assessors at University”

    Unlikely– there are things called exams which are marked -I doubt the ability to threaten “a” grades FROM University staff- they tend to be earned.

    I imagine the Engineer (or Accountant etc) who -to continue the anology – “jumped fences” in A level, undergraduate and professional examinations in the “steeplechase” of their careers would make some small claim to “qualities of real insight” arising via their progress

    “Few of these “A” grade wasters showed any self-knowlege whatsoever, hence my comments in postings above on the need to develop qualities of real insight in the young rather than gate jumping tests of, usually, just gate jumping.

    I fear I am the bearer of bad news.
    In (particularly) the “commercial” world including employers and society in general are standing on the otherside of the “jump” waiting for those who clear it.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Oh Barnshee, you must be long out of University to be so innocent as to modern practice. In the Humanities at least, I know of at least a few cases of a student being awarded quite high grades taking their grades back to the department and forcing even higher grades to be awarded. The threat of a charge of unfair grading is usually sufficient to up the grades. Simple school exams where the multi-choise questions have one clear answer are clear enough for such assessment purposes, but try arguing back on the qualities of MA or PhD work!!!! Which is, of course, what these grades are based on when considering high flyers.

    “I fear I am the bearer of bad news.
    In (particularly) the “commercial” world including employers and society in general are standing on the otherside of the “jump” waiting for those who clear it.”

    Which is the problem! The standard they go for is one set by a general culture of Social Darwinism, and the need to apply an objective standard to interviews means that the pretence that these grades are written in fire is a contrived agreement, like the very concept of academic objectivity itself. So I’m afraid we will just have to disagree on this.

    My own experience from the creative industries is that the shift employers (other than myself) have made to picking out pushy “A” grader self publicists since the mid 1980s has led to a general decay of standards across the industry but you only have to watch a few hours of contemporary TV and then put on a DVD of a few hours from the early 1980s to see what I mean for yourself. But perhaps you prefer Reality TV to intelligent scripting?

    This degeneration has applied across the board, hence scary events like the Banking Crash, and so very much more. We are assessing pupils so that they can, if successful, make big money and buy expensive things, but you cannot call this education in any meaningful sense.

    The test is over whether the importance of subjects such as Latin, Philosophy, Music and Irish language in training the mind to actually think for itself is recognised. Or whether we simply encourage a child to learn enough to enslave their time to someone else who will, in return, give them expensive goodies and a rather flash lifestyle for the effective use of most of their daily hours. So very few houses I visit in NI have books any more. Even the educated “A” graders seem to feel that when they have finished their exams they should never have to open a book again.

    Education??????????