Conservatives to restore education by academic ability
It has been the ideological battle in education for the past 30 years: whether to acknowledge that some are naturally more intellectually gifted than others, or to insist that all possess equal cerebral potential and so merit the same treatment. The former philosophy yielded grammar schools; the latter bequeathed to us the comprehensive system.
And the comprehensive ideology has predominated for a generation no matter which political party has been in power. The axing of grammar schools which Margaret Thatcher implemented in the 70s has been rigorously pursued by every education secretary since: the principle of selection by academic ability is ‘unfair’, and equality of outcome has swallowed equality of opportunity. It has produced a generation of mediocre teachers teaching a mediocre national curriculum to mediocre students who go on to excel in their mediocrity.
It has taken a long time to appreciate the nonsense of this (despite the quite obvious decline in standards and 'dumbing down' year on year), but David Cameron and Michael Gove have, at last, bit the bullet. Whilst insisting that all are equal, they have pledged to restore the principle of élitism to the nation’s manifestly deficient education system (or, actually, to that of England, for education in Scotland and Wales is a devolved competence), and acknowledge that some are more equal than others.
Not, alas, the children. But the teachers.
Yet if the principle may be applied to teachers, why not to students?
David Cameron is promising a ‘brazenly élitist’ approach to teaching standards in order to ‘raise the quality of graduates entering the profession’ and ‘elevate the status of teaching in our country’.
A Conservative government would therefore reward the best candidates and block the weakest.
If this ‘sheep and goats’ division may be made at 21, why not 18? And if at 18, why not 11 or 12?
The important thing to observe is the shift from the insistence that a university is a university and a degree is a degree: the obsession with bland uniformity is over; the charade that all may enter because all are chosen has evaporated.
The Conservative Party is to insist on a degree ‘pass mark’ before candidates are permitted to train as teachers, and, for some subjects, that pass must be in a degree from one of the top universities.
Why is a 21+ exam morally justifiable but the 11+ exam not? Why are élite universities a justifiable pathway to academic success, but not grammar schools?
Mr Cameron says that no one with less than a 2:2 degree would be granted taxpayer’s money for postgraduate teacher training.
So why should students with less than 111 in their 11+ exam be granted taxpayer’s money for an educational curriculum which may not suit their training needs? Who says that only those with Firsts or Upper Seconds make the best teachers?
Mr Cameron says that no one who has not been to one of the ‘top 25’ universities will be able to have their student loans paid off.
If ‘grammar’ universities are to be recognised and rewarded in the system, by what logic are grammar schools merely tolerated? Why may they not multiply and expand in every town and city in the country?
If the education of the educators may be ‘brazenly élitist’ in order to ensure that only the ‘brightest people’ can apply, what is the educational rationale for eradicating the élitism by which the brightest schoolchildren may be stretched by the most exacting academic curriculum?