16 June 2006

Ideology and education in Britain

Ideology is bad enough when adults inflict it on each other. It's even worse when innocent children are the victims. Since state funding for grammar schools in the UK began to be phased out in the 1960s for narrowly ideological reasons, what has happened to social mobility in that country?

The latest research, published today, reveals that the percentage of top positions in the British media going to former private school pupils has risen by more than 10 per cent since 1986. The report on the media follows reports on the legal profession and on MPs which reached similar conclusions. The research, published by the Sutton Trust education charity, shows that of the leading 100 media opinion-formers, 54 per cent came from private schools, compared with 49 per cent 20 years ago. Thirty-three per cent of the remainder came from selective grammar schools and only 14 per cent were from comprehensive schools, which cater for 90 per cent of all pupils.

The report on the legal profession shows that almost 70 per cent of barristers from leading chambers were educated at private schools. And in the House of Commons, 42 per cent of those holding government office or shadowing ministers are former pupils of private schools. Just 7 per cent of all pupils are educated in the private sector. Source
Meanwhile, we can see from another newspaper article an indicator of the value some Britons put on their kids' education:

World Cup haircut pupils get the boot from school.

Two pupils have been suspended from a Blacon school because they had St George's flags cut into the back of their hair. ... The two 14 year-olds have been told they cannot go back to lessons unless they shave the motif out or wait for it to grow out. [The father of one of the boys] said his son would not back down. "It is just stupid. The boys are not having it shaved out." Source: Chester Standard 18 June
Here's another idea: instead of running our schools as social engineering experiments or suppliers of mass babysitting services, how about we subordinate their structures and activities to educational outcomes, instead of ideology? Issue Social Policy Bonds that target basic verifiable achievements, such as numeracy or literacy. Let motivated educators decide how these shall be achieved, and let parents decide on their other priorities.

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