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Worthless qualifications at state schools

(426 Posts)
Judy1234 Sat 23-Jan-10 21:14:26

Wise words.
Pick solid GCSEs in proper subjects - take a language, take English lit and lang, take maths, geography, history and 2 or 3 proper sciences and get just 8 or 9 in traditional subjects with good grades.

"The headmaster of Harrow has accused many state schools of deceiving children by entering them for “worthless” qualifications. Barnaby Lenon said that grade inflation and a shift to vocational qualifications was masking a failure to teach enough pupils to a good standard.

“Let us not deceive our children, and especially children from poorer homes, with worthless qualifications so that they become like the citizens of Weimar Germany or Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, carrying their certificates around in a wheelbarrow,” he told a conference.

“[Let’s not] produce people like those girls in the first round of The X Factor who tell us they want to be the next Britney Spears but can’t sing a note.”

He cited media studies as an example of a soft subject, for which many schools were keen to enter students because it was easier for them to get a good grade. The real route to a good job in one of the professions, he said, was good grades in traditional academic subjects such as maths, sciences and languages."

ahundredtimes Sat 23-Jan-10 22:20:06

It would be pretty shocking if schools were sitting their brightest pupils in 'soft' subjects to get good grades for league tables, rather than pushing them towards MFL for example, wouldn't it? I'd think that was pretty shocking.

ahundredtimes Sat 23-Jan-10 22:23:51

Why did they drop MFL from being a required GCSE? I didn't even know they had.

southeastastra Sat 23-Jan-10 22:26:17

the head of harrow is only saying what mn says daily

though i don't think the head of harrow lives any where near the real world

smugmumofboys Sat 23-Jan-10 22:35:19

100x. Hmm. Good question. It all happened when I was sahming. It seems that it was because it wasn't being taught well and many students found it hard.

The cynic in me can't help but think that the govt didn't want it to affect the figures. Maths, apparently, isn't being taught well in many places but I don't see that being dropped as a core subject any time soon.

CarmenSanDiego Sat 23-Jan-10 22:37:50

You know, people knock media studies but I actually think it should be compulsory in schools.

The media has a massive influence in our lives, yet too many people don't understand how advertising works, how mass media can be used as a political tool, how the news is biased and how statistics are manipulated for effect.

Look at the argument here about Haiti and Nestle as an example. That is a hugely important worldwide issue yet the majority of people I speak to just say "Aww, isn't it nice that they're sending formula to Haiti" without even engaging in the matters of advertising, PR and sales.

Most kids don't know where to get information that is reliable or accurate.

There is good reason that dictators and dictatorial governments invest in news media and television stations. Look at the harm that has been done in China through government censorship and twisting of the media.

If children did a couple of years of really analysing the media, they might not be so easily manipulated and exploited.

George Orwell would be a good place to start.

There is an argument that this could be covered in other subjects but only if those subjects make room to discuss media. Chemistry is all well and good if you want to be a doctor, but that career choice is only for a small fraction of the population.

I think politics, philosophy, media and psychology are all crucial subjects for today's world that everyone should know about and most school-leavers emerge without much of a clue.

Wastwinsetandpearls Sat 23-Jan-10 22:43:07

I took my dd to look around a local humanities college that is very very well regarded. It was boasting of having a handful of students taking GCSE Geography and could not promise that A Level Geog could be offered. I was shocked to the core.

I teach in a humanities department and had that school in the back of my mind as somewhere I would like to work. It has been stored now as somewhere I would never want to work.

I do think there is an issue in state schools in "harder subjects" being sidelined. I am very lucky that I teach in a good state with a thriving humanities department but I know that Geography in particular struggles in many schools.

I had my pupils moaning at me a while ago that we had not chosen the easiest units for them to study in our GCSE course. This was a deliberate decision on our behalf.

tatt Sat 23-Jan-10 22:50:37

most people once they start work use very little of the traditional subjects they studied. They need things like the ability to analyse a problem, to present a solution. to work as part of a team. They could get those things from so-called "soft" subjects. However the brightest children will not be doing soft subjects because most employers are still brain washed into wanting "hard" subjects.

Ctach 22 anyone?

southeastastra Sat 23-Jan-10 22:51:36

you are biased as you could afford to send your kids to one of the most expensive schools in the uk

though i can't work out that how such a great paid for education still can't even begin to start out major world problems, like the war in afghanistan

SpringHeeledJack Sat 23-Jan-10 22:52:23

oooh, that makes utter sense, Carmen

<<wishes had thought of it first>>


hanaflower Sat 23-Jan-10 23:24:15

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

CarmenSanDiego Sat 23-Jan-10 23:29:05

That's a very good point, tatt.

I think a big question here is 'What is school for'

'Worthless qualifications' buys into the concept that qualifications exist as currency to get you into employment or university which seems a rather narrowminded view of education.

In a side note, I worked briefly at the BBC in tv production. Most of the new entrants there were media studies graduates. It's a horribly hierarchical place and very hard to fast track up to management, no matter what your qualifications. Struck me that endurance is key there. If your child wanted to go into TV production, I would absolutely suggest doing a degree in media or similar - at least they'd get hands on experience in the various technologies and techniques.

CarmenSanDiego Sat 23-Jan-10 23:29:45

Not as much as it ought to, Hanna

Merrylegs Sat 23-Jan-10 23:44:19

The world is changing though, isn't it?

As Carmen says. other subjects are becoming more important. Portfolio careers are going to be the norm and I think 'tradition' will fly out of the window.

Sure, there will always be a place for Maths, Science, Eng and most importantly languages I think BUT take a look at the current GCSE History syllabus. 18th century medicine, 1st and second WWs, USA to 1941. And stop.

And Geography. It's always climate change (flooding especially) and globilisation.

I think 'wider' subjects like Philosophy and Ethics, Media studies, open students up to critical thinking, problem solving, and encompass the wider world.

Plus, next time round I am marrying - or training to be - a plumber, electrician, car mechanic or hairdresser. Far more use than an Eng Lit graduate.

Wastwinsetandpearls Sun 24-Jan-10 00:10:24

I think Geography is very relevant, I think it is the most popular option subject at our school. I am also quite sure that our History GCSE syllabus does not stop at WW2

I teach Philosophy and Ethics so will agree with you there.

claig Sun 24-Jan-10 02:41:43

agree with CarmenSanDiego
"I think politics, philosophy, media and psychology are all crucial subjects for today's world that everyone should know about and most school-leavers emerge without much of a clue."
and Merrylegs
"I think 'wider' subjects like Philosophy and Ethics, Media studies, open students up to critical thinking, problem solving, and encompass the wider world."

but there is a theory that these subjects might encourage a few too many awkward questions, something which is not desirable

tatt Sun 24-Jan-10 08:31:37

politics is part of the current AS syllabus and bores students. A friend's child is now dropping history as an A level and doing further maths instead.

The GSCE history syllabus makes more sense then when I was at school. Hopefully in studying history of medicine they acquire some realisation that professionals can often be wrong and decisions need to be based on fact not opinion. They study the causes of wars and slavery. Geography has done more than global warming (although that's likely to be one of the main issues our children have to deal with). I was quite impressed by their study of GM crops.

I do agree that some children are being pushed into "media studies" or "film studies" when they would be better doing more maths and english or vocational courses. And some bright children (like mine) do "hard" subjects when their careers are unlikely to require them because there are no courses at the best universities that are relevant to what they want to do but they want the sfaety net of a "good" degree.

Education sucks.

ArcticFox Sun 24-Jan-10 08:43:30

The value of studying history at GCSE isn't so much in learning the facts of the period (which is largely irrlevant) but in learning how to analyse conflicting evidence, build an argument, understand probable and possible cause and effect and how primary and secondary evidence needs to be examined with a firm understanding of who the writer was and what their agenda was.

Arguably, if history was taught with this in mind, it would do the job of media studies as outlined by Carmen.

Re vocational subjects and non-academic students, why are we forcing non-academic students to remain in "pseudo-academic" education? The UK is obsessed with academic achievement but many kids would be better leaving school and fourteen and learning a practical trade. Let academic kids be academic and practical kids be practical.

skidoodle Sun 24-Jan-10 08:57:36

If pupils are not learning how to think critically and analytically at school then the school is useless, regardless of what subjects they are taking.

The idea that you need to take media studies to learn these things rather than history, geography or english is making little tears build up behind my eyes.

I also think we need to stop using the word "vocational" when we mean "easy". A good vocational curriculum would be a fine thing indeed, but it would be bloody hard and require just as much effort as studying academic subjects. Depending on the vocation, it would almost certainly involve maths, physics and language skills, just more practically focused. It would be possible to do badly if you didn't work hard.

I don't think there is much to be gained in designing courses for lazy and unmotivated pupils.

magentadreamer Sun 24-Jan-10 09:05:29

The only reason my DD is contemplating doing History is due to the fact she can do the medicine through time syllabus. 50% of the syllabus is looking at Medical advancement through the ages and transformation in surgery in the 19th Century. The other 50% is made up of a study of Germany 1919-45 and a local history unit. DD is fascinated by all things medical so 50% of the course is ticking all the right boxes for her. Assessment is by 3 exams and the local history unit is controlled coursework - bugger I'll not be able to write it for her wink

tatt Sun 24-Jan-10 09:08:25

Skidoodle the idea that only in so-called hard subjects can you learn how to think critically and analytically is what distresses me.

magentadreamer Sun 24-Jan-10 09:08:46

Posted to soon I was going to add that the transferable skills you can gain by studying History are invaluable as others have said.

pointydug Sun 24-Jan-10 09:13:53

Generally speaking, I agree with op

Peachy Sun 24-Jan-10 09:23:30


Nobody could take history and geography, and a girl from a council estate shouldn't take 3s ciences apparentlty so although I was 90th centile for physics I waspalced into typing class(and failed dismally), and indtead of asecondlangauge I was put into Child Development GCSE with allthe suture teenage mums.

Blimey we worry about the world today but comapared to that of the eighties, well.....

On a generallevelDS1 doesn't want to go to Uni (probably couldnt either) and is looking at maeupa rtistry asa career, stage type, so I guess we will have to start asking for advice on what he should take.

Peachy Sun 24-Jan-10 09:24:15

(Oh and yes I agree with OP,sorry Xenia LOL)

MrsMattie Sun 24-Jan-10 09:27:27

Is it employer's who care about GCSE subjects? Or universities?

If you've got Maths & English and have a degree, no sensible employer gives two hoots about whether you did Latin or Media Studies at GCSE.

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