Bad Week for Wales…..

We started with the PISA report on education standards throughout the world.

The Pisa assessments of 15-year-olds show Wales falling further behind since the 2006 tests.
Wales teenagers ranked below average, alongside the Czech Republic, in reading.
Leighton Andrews called the results “unacceptable” and said everyone involved should be “alarmed”.
Wales again ranked lowest of the UK countries and is now cast adrift from England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Out of 67 countries taking part, Wales was ranked 38th for reading, 40th for maths and 30th for the tests for science.
Scotland was the best for reading and maths of the UK nations, ranked 15th and 21st, while England was top for science in the UK, ranked 16th.
It is now below average on all three measures and has scored worse than before in every category.

Education Minister Leighton Andrews not very happy:
From the Western Mail Welsh schools shamed in global league table:
Leighton says:

These results have made it clear that schools in Wales are simply not delivering well enough for students at all levels of ability.
There can be no alibis and no excuses. Schools, local authorities and ourselves as Government need to look honestly at these results and accept responsibility for them.”

(England, Scotand and NI statistically very close)

And then the economy’s gone all to hell:
Again from the Western Mail:
Wales confirmed as poorest nation in the UK. The measure used is Gross Value Added – the value of output less the value of
intermediate consumption – the contribution to Natonal Wealth.
It’s £14,842 per person, 74.3% of UK average GVA cf Scotland @ 98.8% of UK average and Northern Ireland @ 79.1%. More worrying is the trend:
1989 – 85.4%, 1999- 77.4% 2010 – 74.3%.
On the “bright side” it looks like we’ll qualify for a shedful more European Funding – Remember Michael Edwardes of British Leyland fame ? His famous quote from his Wiki

If the Cabinet do not have the wit and imagination to reconcile our industrial needs with the fact of North Sea oil, they would do better to leave the bloody stuff in the ground.

For the good European funding has done our economy we must construct a strategy before wasting anymore of it. We’ve probably taken the environmental criteria (that the funding is restricted by) a little by the book. Spend the lot on Motorways, Railways and Airports I reckon….

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  • Cynic

    So who in the Education sector has been sacked a s a result of this gross ineptitude?

    Well?

  • Dewi

    So who in the Education sector has been sacked a s a result of this gross ineptitude?

    No-one yet – but League tables will surely be back in Wales with a bang.

  • Why is everyone waving knickers in the air over the OECD/PISA report?

    Take a step back. The whole OECD programme propagates neo-liberalism and hierarchical models. PISA is part of that scheme.

    The OECD involved itself in education policy only in the later-90s. Its Directorate of Education (anyone getting a distinct “Big Brother” feel already?) dates from 2002.

    The main OECD concern is that education is closely connected to economic growth, and that “human capital” is part of the capitalist economy. So “good” education (in OECD terms) is the provision of skilled labour: no more, no less.

    National governments jump to the OECD/PISA diktat by creating more competition, more assessments, more performance indicators, more standardised testing, more central control. Despite Gove’s puzzled expressions, watch this space as greater authority is reined in by his Department.

    That UK (and even more so Irish) education slips down the OECD/PISA league may not entirely be a bad thing. It merely suggest that “our” systems are more inclusive of the liberal and humane arts, and not solely of applied sciences. Curiously enough, just those models the OECD/PISa scorns and disses produce the Nobel Prizewinners.

    Dickens’s Mr Gradgrind might have scored well as a prototype for PISA:

    It was a fundamental principle of the Gradgrind philosophy that everything was to be paid for. Nobody was ever on any account to give anybody anything, or render anybody help without purchase. Gratitude was to be abolished, and the virtues springing from it were not to be. Every inch of the existence of mankind, from birth to death, was to be a bargain across a counter. And if we didn’t get to Heaven that way, it was not a politico-economical place, and we had no business there.

    I’m an Arts graduate: four years at the most Arts-friendly university and time imaginable (OK: TCD, early sixties), so I’m with Mr Sleary from that same chapter:

    “… Don’t be croth with uth poor vagabondth. People mutht be amuthed. They can’t be alwayth a learning, nor yet they can’t be alwayth a working, they an’t made for it. You mutht have uth, Thquire. Do the withe thing and the kind thing too, and make the betht of uth; not the wurtht!”

  • Cynic

    unless you act on league tables they are useless and the Education Unions are so embedded in Welsh politics who will sack the incompetents? Unless of course they are English imports!

  • Malcolm, if youth is that period between childhood and maturity then surely university student life is a period of prolonged youth or, in the case of arts students, prolonged childhood 😉

  • Dewi

    @Malcolm – Seems like Reading, ‘Riting and ‘Rithmetic to me…
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2010/dec/07/uk-schools-slip-world-rankings

    Well, reading and ‘rithmetic at least.

    @Cynic – need to measure stuff to improve it. After all Leighton listens to the PISA league table…

  • So, Dewi @ 4:43 pm, how does one equalise the assessment of reading-proficiency across languages? What vocabulary would I need to comprehend Welsh texts? For comparison, to be able to access 97.8% of English texts Francis and Kucera (1982) reckoned I need a personal lexicon of 15,581 words.

    Equally, why is it necessary for my daughter and son-in-law (both high-grade professionals, one with a science degree) to need to invest in guide-books to comprehend the maths-teaching currently in vogue in English primary schools?

    Ah, yes! The vogue-ish in eddikashun! It wasn’t so long ago the “experts” were telling us they could measure “intelligence”. Of course, what they were measuring was the ability to bark appropriately at print.

    And no: we don’t need to measure stuff to improve it. Does that make Jim Denevan, drawing three-mile wide lines in the Nevada desert, an infinitely more “improved” artist than Nicholas Hilliard?

    Meanwhile, Nevin @ 4:40 pm if prolonged childhood (and its continued sense of wonder at the meticulous and the marvellous, a respect for both artiste and artisan, for ideas and ideals) is the alternative to dour, dreary pragmatism, there’s no choice.

  • becky

    the reason their falling behind taking class time to learn them welsh.same as here learning kids to speak oirish complete waste of time.

  • Dewi

    Thanks for that Beca – and it’s teach not learn!

  • Malcolm, I sometimes wonder at the ‘meticulous and marvelous’ works of Government myself. The more enlightened may well argue that Baconian pragmatism is great crack.

  • For some reason, I’m not getting feed-backs on this computer, so I’m out of the loop.

    However, may I be allowed to draw the attention of us few, us precious few, us band of dissenting brothers to a piece I would love to have written? It’s off-topic. It’s offensive. One doesn’t need to agree with every word to feel “involved”. It’s by Dave Ostler on Liberal Conspiracy, Hacktivism: a fiftysomething writes.

    I hope the link works, so you can try it for yourselves.

    And my, my: princeling and his squeeze have car assaulted. Big news!

  • Sorry! Small cut-and-paste problem.

    For the promised link try:
    http://liberalconspiracy.org/2010/12/09/hactivism-a-fiftysomething-writes/#more-20229

  • Dewi

    Malcolm – how can i tell if our education system is working? Poets? Plumbers? Paperbook writers?

  • Dewi @ 9:59 pm:

    Probably all three. Equally an adequate supply of physicians, physicists, pharmacists, psychiatrists, podiatrists, and pest controllers. Curiously the supply of PR types, porn producers and politicians seems self-regulating.

  • Dewi

    My niece on protest in London…..Protesters?