Voluntary Aided (ie State) school censors GCSE science papers! WTAF

(39 Posts)
AuntyEntropy Sat 12-Oct-13 21:37:11

I know that it's bad form to link and run in an OP, and you're meant to express your own viewpoint in an insightful way, but I'm struggling to get past "WTAF! They censored the GCSE exam papers!"

www.theguardian.com/education/2013/oct/11/jewish-school-censored-gcses-evolution

For those who CBA to follow the link (fair enough), this is an Orthodox Jewish girls school, and there does not appear to be any room for misunderstanding - they blacked out the questions relating to evolution.

phantomnamechanger Sun 13-Oct-13 00:13:40

Wow, how is preventing them being able to attempt all the questions, helping them get good grades?

I can remember in my O level geography exam there was a question about a certain area and we were asked to study maps and data and to discuss the pros and cons of several suggested sites for a bacon factory in relation to ports/rail & road network/market/pig farms/population (workforce) etc etc - no doubt they would have blocked that out too.

nennypops Sun 13-Oct-13 16:10:33

Good grief. I thought that schools were only supposed to look at the papers before the exam to check they had the right ones and nothing more? If they opened them up sufficiently far in advance to enable them to black out those questions on every single exam paper, wouldn't that be a breach of their duties in terms of the administration of the exam? After all, if you've got time to black out some questions you've got time to go out and give the kids a few bullet points to help them answer the others.

edam Sun 13-Oct-13 17:41:55

Absolutely outrageous in so many directions at once - that they censored the papers, that they opened and went through confidential exam materials...

Clearly this school cannot be trusted to administer exams. The LEA should make arrangements either for exams to be overseen in every detail by outsiders or for the pupils to take their exams elsewhere.

Don't the parents care that their daughters are being lied to?

AuntyEntropy Sun 13-Oct-13 17:53:11

Well presumably the parents don't think their children are being lied to, they think the school is protecting them from the evil lies being propagated by the sinful secular world. This is not the sort of school you send children to if you are not fully committed to the faith, the home-school agreement seems to outlaw television for example.

And also protecting them from being distracted by an exam question on which they would never be able to score well - thus enabling them to concentrate on the other questions. From the parents' POV it makes total sense....

ErrolTheDragon Sun 13-Oct-13 18:04:30

State funded education has a duty to educate children properly. The children should have been taught the full science curriculum and should have been presented with the full science paper. If the school can't do that then it shouldn't be receiving state funding.

claig Sun 13-Oct-13 18:10:34

I am not sure this is such a big issue.

Why can't they be allowed to hold on to their beliefs and not teach some aspects that they believe are wrong? Don't we believe in diversity where not everyone has to believe or do the same things?

Seems a complaint was made by someone from the National Secular Society.

Apparently there are many private Charedi schools and this school seems to be in the spotlight because it is partially or fully state funded. Is the objection mainly because it is to some extent state-funded? If it was a private Charedi school, would there still be the same type of complaint?

ErrolTheDragon Sun 13-Oct-13 18:32:12

Schools should not be teaching children what to believe (parents have that prerogative). They should be equipping them with accurate knowledge about the world, and the means of assessing such knowledge.
How to think, not what to think.

claig Sun 13-Oct-13 18:34:59

But presumably the parents know what the school believes and presumably they believe it too.

'How to think, not what to think.'

Isn't the pressure to teach evolution in effect teaching them what to think?

edam Sun 13-Oct-13 19:19:45

Only if you think teaching them about gravity is equally wrong.

claig Sun 13-Oct-13 19:59:10

Gravity does not go against their fundamental religious beliefs.

They aren't covering up stuff about evolution on a whim, they are doing it because it presumably goes against their core faith. I think we are a big enough and diverse enough country to allow people to cover up exam questions that go against their core faith.

claig Sun 13-Oct-13 20:04:04

Do the private Haredi schools do the same GCSE papers?

Why has teh National Seculat society brought this up over this one state-funded school? Is it to end state funding for a school like this?

Those parents pay their taxes, why should the state not help to pay for the education of their children just because they don't follow the state's line on evolution?

edam Sun 13-Oct-13 20:10:55

No, claig, they don't get to cover up exam questions 'that go against their faith'.

They don't get to interfere with exam papers. That is wrong - who knows whether, apart from the blacking out questions, they tipped the students and teachers off about the content of the exam?

They have harmed the education of their pupils by interfering with the exam - apart from anything else, their students were prevented from answering those questions, and will have been marked down.

As a state school, in receipt of taxpayer's money, they have to teach the National Curriculum. It includes evolution. As well as lots of other things that various interest groups with a particular take on the world probably disagree with.

And they are lying to their pupils by obscuring the questions and trying to pretend that the theory of evolution does not exist. It is mainstream science. They may disagree with the theory of evolution but they have no right to pretend it does not exist as a concept.

claig Sun 13-Oct-13 20:22:05

Yes, I can see that interfering with the paper is not good.

'They have harmed the education of their pupils by interfering with the exam - apart from anything else, their students were prevented from answering those questions, and will have been marked down.'

But my guess is that they may never have taught that aspect of the syllabus anyway, if they went to the lengths of covering up questions about it.

'They may disagree with the theory of evolution but they have no right to pretend it does not exist as a concept.'

My guess is that they tell their pupils that it exists as a concept, but just don't go into detail teaching it because they think it is wrong.

If they have very strong views about it, I don't think they should be forced to teach what goes against their core beliefs, since that would undermine their beliefs and way of life.

It is not an issue that bother most of us, but if they feel that strongly about it, I think they should be allowed to leave that part of the syllabus out.

I think that some flexibility and respect for their core beliefs and way of life is better than forcing them to go against what they hold dearly.

ErrolTheDragon Sun 13-Oct-13 22:51:49

>It is not an issue that bother most of us

children being denied access to basic scientific education bothers me a lot. Children being taught only what coincides with their parents' beliefs bothers me too.

How can anyone truly develop their own 'core beliefs' (rather than merely adopting their family's) if they are narrowly educated?

claig Sun 13-Oct-13 23:05:43

'Children being taught only what coincides with their parents' beliefs bothers me too.'

They aren't only taught what coincides with their parents' beliefs. They are taught maths and English and French and history and geography and biology and chemistry and physics.

It is just evolution that their some of their parents and grandparents and great grandparents do not agree with and would rather was not taught in school. That might bother you, but I think that their parents' wishes should take precedence over your wishes when it comes to the education of their children over a matter that is core to their Haredi community's beliefs.

Whathaveiforgottentoday Sun 13-Oct-13 23:15:33

It bothers me that they may not be teaching evolution and I believe (not going to double check as should be working not Mumsnetting) that Gove changed the ruling saying that it is mandatory to teach the theory to evolution in state schools so they are breaking regulations. If the parents don't like it, take them out of state education.

Just realised - i'm supporting something Gove has said!

Catkinsthecatinthehat Sun 13-Oct-13 23:19:28

Gravity does not go against their fundamental religious beliefs.

Wouldn't surprise me if that wasn't being taught either as it's just God pushing things down.

edam Sun 13-Oct-13 23:29:22

Claig - if the school will go to these extremes over biology, who knows what havoc they might be wreaking on those other subjects too? Eng lit for example - plenty of books have caused outrage amongst those with narrow minds.

claig Sun 13-Oct-13 23:38:36

Yes, you are right. I don't know what else they do.
But in the grand scheme of things, I am not sure if they are causing any harm by omitting some things from the curriculum that they disagree with.

I believe in live and let live and accept that they have different views on some topics to me, and I don't believe in forcing them to go against their beliefs or traditions on issues that I do not believe are of overriding importance.

claig Sun 13-Oct-13 23:42:50

I am sure that the Amish or the Plymouth Brethren have beliefs that I do not go along with, but I don't think that the state should force them to go against their beliefs.

America was founded by pilgrims who left this country to escape repression and to be able to exercise their faith freely. I think in modern Britain, we should allow people to follow their faiths without forcing them to change to fit in with what the State thinks is best provided they are doing no harm.

Whathaveiforgottentoday Mon 14-Oct-13 00:54:03

I understand where you are coming from and having taught many students who do not 'believe' in evolution, I tread carefully around this topic. However I don't consider evolution a belief but a theory with a substantial volume of supporting evidence. Therefore its not about teaching about beliefs. They can choose not to belief it, but not expose them to the theory and its evidence and allow the students to make their own mind up, is wrong in my opinion.
If their faith is so strong, surely teaching it wouldn't do any harm. I was taught about religion and it hasn't done me any harm - I chose to reject it, they can do the same with evolution once they've understood it.

claig Mon 14-Oct-13 01:01:18

Maybe they do teach it, I don't really know.
But as you say it is a theory. As far as I know there is no absolute proof that we are descendants of an amoeba. I am sure they know what the theory of evolution is, but maybe they don't give the theory much credence. Does it really matter at the end of the day?

joanofarchitrave Mon 14-Oct-13 01:04:26

Interfering with the exam is grade inflation. If the children haven't been taught chunks of the syllabus, then blacking out the questions relating to those chunks is material help to them - being able to spot the questions that you can answer given the knowledge you have is an exam skill.

NoComet Mon 14-Oct-13 01:20:49

Any child of Secondary age not being allowed television, access to the internet and the freedom to learn about the world they live in religious or secular, good and bad worries me a lot.

I stop mincing my words with the children of devote Christians when they get to Y6 not Y11.

Parents have the right to control what their children only when they are little children, once they go to secondary school they are old enough to start understanding there are many points of view.

Parents may not like it, but that freedom is to me a fundamental human right.

NoComet Mon 14-Oct-13 01:30:24

Freedom for young people to form their own opinions religious, moral and political is fundamental to education in a liberal democratic society.

So no I'm not happy at a state funded school behaving this way.

Personally I believe all faith schools, state and private should strongly be discouraged.

Caitlin17 Mon 14-Oct-13 01:53:44

This seems such a self evidently wrong thing to do I can't see why anyone would defend it.

I'm inclined to agree with you about faith schools. The poster defending this said the parents pay taxes sobwhy can't they have the school they want. Well most of us pay taxes, but parents who choose to practice a particular faith are getting a better deal than parents who dont follow a faith since the faith parents have the choice of the ordinary state school as well as the faith school. To turn her argument on its head she's asking certain parents to fund a school their children can never use.
Oh I know that is simplistic as we don't hypothecate tax, but I don't think the "paying tax" argument makes it all OK.

claig Mon 14-Oct-13 02:08:09

I have just read an interesting article about the Haredi in the Daily Telegraph. From reading it, my guess is that Haredi children would probably choose their faith school over a state school. Most Haredi schools are private, this particular one is state-funded.

People in Liverpool fund state schools in Devon that they can't use and Haredi parents fund state schools that they would maybe not wish to use.

I am wary of the State interfering in the traditions of communities and how they choose to live.

www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/8326339/Inside-the-private-world-of-Londons-ultra-Orthodox-Jews.html

claig Mon 14-Oct-13 02:17:26

Apparently, the Haredi community in Belgium is under pressure to teach evolution in their schools

"Earlier this summer, the Flemish government issued decrees that would force both state-funded and private Jewish schools to teach mandatory curriculums that include evolutionary biology, human reproduction and other subjects considered taboo by Antwerp’s 18,000 haredi Jews."

www.jta.org/2013/08/14/news-opinion/world/antwerps-haredi-schools-forced-to-chose-between-censorship-and-their-subsidies

SilverApples Mon 14-Oct-13 07:35:05

If it's a state school, then it should come under the same expectations of teaching the NC as any other VA funded school.
Tampering with the exams is illegal and should have been unnecessary, at 15 the girls should have been able to look at the questions and think 'Can't answer that one, haven't been taught about it' without needing any censorship.
I wonder what their last OFSTED inspection found in relation to subject coverage?

sparklekitty Mon 14-Oct-13 07:40:19

Absolutely fine if you want to send your children to a very conservatively religious school, fine if the school doesn't want to teach evolution as long as the parents are aware.

NOT fine for them to be state funded. All state funded schools should be taught the same thing, level playing field and all that.

Very worrying they had the papers open long enough to censor them all though!

marriedinwhiteisback Mon 14-Oct-13 07:43:55

When I was at school there were questions on the Eng Lit paper about Romeo and Juliet and Pride and Prejudice. We had only scratched the surfaces of that play and book. We had focused on Great Expectationa and Henry IV Part I in the Upper Fifth and were told to disregard the other questions. Blacking them out might have been helpful for the handful of numpties who answered the wrong questions.

I think the question is more one of whether it is allowed to delete a question from a public exam paper than about the rights and wrongs of part of the curriculum not being taught.

Caitlin17 Mon 14-Oct-13 22:33:08

The comment about parents in Liverpool funding schools in Devon which they can't use is ridiculous. What I meant was 2 schools in your catchment being paid for by your council tax only one of which is available for your children but the other parent has the choice of both.

edam Mon 14-Oct-13 22:59:19

claig - actually you could just as well say the pilgrim fathers went to America because they were frustrated that they weren't allowed to persecute other people. They wanted to force everyone else to live by their rules.

As for evolution 'only' being a theory - so is gravity. Yet I can't see any pigs floating... theory in everyday speech is different from theory in a scientific sense, which means a rational explanation supported by a body of proof that stands up to testing.

englishteacher78 Tue 15-Oct-13 07:27:30

The problem in this argument seems to be the different meanings of theory. The Theory of evolution doesn't mean that it's just an idea Darwin had with no evidence. It's the best fit with current evidence.
Also, perfectly possible to teach it in Science with a 'Scientist believe....' they don't have to believe it they have to learn it.
My RSS students don't believe all the major religions (and some minor ones) but they learn about them!
People who can't cope with their faith being challenged annoy me a little.

nkf Tue 15-Oct-13 07:41:09

I expect the exam board will have to act in this. You can't tamper with exam papers.

Greythorne Tue 15-Oct-13 07:49:41

A scientific theory means something which has evidence to support it and no scientific evidence against it.

As soon as somebody discovers bunny rabbits in the pre-Cambrian, the theory of evolution will be blown out if the water.

But so far nobody has come up with anything that disproves it.

Something with conclusive evidence is a fact.

Something with no conclusive evidence but lots if supporting evidence and crucially, no evidence against is a theory.

Theory does not mean vague idea that might be right or wrong.0

pointyfangs Tue 15-Oct-13 15:15:44

Thanks, Greythorne. I sometimes find it difficult to believe that there are still educated literate people out there who do not understand the scientific definition of a theory. Good explanation. I'd suggest, claig that you look up the works of Karl Popper - he's very clear on the idea that you can only disprove (falsify) a theory (i.e. a bunny rabbit in the Precambrian), not prove it, and that a valid theory stands until it is disproved.

The simplest example is the hypothesis that all swans are white. You could go through life and have this be true for you simply if you never come across a black swan. Obviously you'd have to accept the idea that all documentaries and images involving black swans were faked, but that's a small sacrifice to make. Until the day you go to your local pond and tehre it is - a black swan. Theory falsified, time to build a new one.

I went to a state school in Holland and had a girl in my class who belonged to a very Fundamentalist Christian group who did not believe in the validity of the Theory of Evolution. She became very upset in biology class when we started the topic. The teacher calmly told her and her parents that they were not required to believe it, they merely had to be able to produce it for the exams. Can't see why this school doesn't take the same tack. If they were private and free to follow their own curriculum it wuold be different, but they chose to take tax payers' money and that comes with responsibilities.

camilamoran Fri 18-Oct-13 10:01:41

If children from a religious tradition that rejects evolution are at a state school, I wouldn't want them to be forced to accept evolution. But I would want them to be taught two things:

(i) That it's not 'just a theory' that you can choose to ignore while accepting the rest of science.

(ii) That it's not a question of science versus religion. There are many people who believe in God and also believe in science. There are many religious positions you can take up on the relationship between scripture and experience of the world (which is basically what this debate is about).

Then they can decide themselves what to believe.

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