I’m sure my readers, if there are any, are familiar with the fantastic 500words project running to get people thinking about the purpose of education. I wrote my own contribution a while back, but today – because of all the fuss of the last few days about #govelevels – I wanted to write one from another point of view.
Obviously this is a parody, and I intend to write something more constructive over the weekend. If you’ve not already seen it, I recommend @xtophercook‘s excellent and prompt post. In the mean time, I hope this makes you smile. Or snarl. Or something.
#500words from Michael Gove
I dream of a Britain in which bright students are challenged with world-class exams. I want to live in a country where teachers prepare these pupils in quiet classrooms, and so do the people of this country. I want our teachers to learn from the best of the private sector, and from countries like Finland and Singapore. Learn the bits about recruiting the highest achievers, of course, not about taking responsibility back from the state or abolishing inspections.
I want our pupils to achieve the very best that they are capable of, according to a single assessment at age thirteen. The purpose of education is to prepare students for the real world, a world in which an offhand judgement at a young age cannot be appealed or changed. I want clearly able students, making up the top three-quarters of the population, being tested on their memory and ability to parrot back their notes. Or maybe the top two-thirds. Because the purpose of education is surely to encourage competition and excellence, and we don’t want too many doing the useful exams. These gold standard exams will be a familiar sight for those of us who studied at the best schools, due to ability, hard work or having parents who sent us there. That such students then receive a one-sided view of education is in no way a disadvantage, as they can then make judgements without being bothered by facts. These young people, who will disproportionately live in the South and come from higher income families, will learn a great many facts. This is clearly what schools are for, although equally clearly the facts in question must be chosen by politicians, as teachers can’t be trusted to think for themselves. Furthermore, it is obvious that these facts should be about classics of English Literature, classical music and obscure dead languages.
For the remaining pupils, we expect a different outcome, suited to their lower abilities. By choosing their future path early on, there will be more time to prepare them appropriately. Their education must focus on relevant skills, because they will have no chance to continue to A-levels or university. Unlike the old ‘foundation tier’, part of the failed GCSE experiment, there is no danger that they will work hard and achieve a C grade, or even a B. We don’t want to encourage that sort of attitude – far better that they are clearly told, by politicians and teachers, that they need have no aspirations beyond menial jobs and being denied state support. Education is about preparation for life, and far better that these students are labelled with an exam so that no matter how hard they work, it is clear that they were second-class students from an early age. Giving people chances to improve themselves is rarely successful, and encouraging achievement for all is only useful as long as we don’t actually help them succeed.
So this is the purpose of education – to celebrate those who are the best at what I think is important.