This week, following an alleged infringement of the rules on student surveys that “Tougher guidelines are to be issued to warn universities against manipulating the results of a league table of student satisfaction.” All well and good.
But why league tables in the first place? Both in schools and in further and higher education the hallowed position in your particular league table is an overarching consideration. Without a significant position you don’t get the students, and without the students you don’t get the funding, and of course without the funding you don’t have the jobs for the academics.
Schools are probably the worst affected. They “…do need to dare to be creative; we do need to shake off the oppressive burdens of targets, tests and tables. We have to free ourselves from the clutches of curriculum accountants and assessment auditors. And yes… it is high time to trust schools.” That’s according to National Association of Head Teachers leader Mick Brookes.
The obsession with targets and their attainment is just producing ‘teaching to the test’. We’re getting students – intelligent, creative people, the people that the country needs to progress, being hampered by having been taught maths in a way that will enable them to pass the test – in other words get a grade C at GCSE – but otherwise have no real idea how to work with numbers. They say they’re no good at maths – it’s my job to prove to them that they’re wrong – and we’re getting there. Even though they may not believe it they’re coping with the maths I’m throwing at them. It’s not just simple maths – it’s statistics as well. It just that they’ve only been taught to pass the test, not do the maths.
If they don’t get a pretty good appreciation of maths while they’re with us then their career choices are limited. I’ve been telling them that they need to know the stuff we’re doing because otherwise when they get into their management position, which I why they’re doing a business degree, is so that they don’t get the wool pulled over their eyes – and so that they can question things that they’re presented with.
It would have been easier, much easier, without them being subjected to league table pressure and been able to concentrate on education more.