The Apollo Project
Liberal Ideas for the 21st Century
Thursday, November 10, 2005
The Wages of Selection...
by Peter

I'm sorry to come back to education so soon, but this article on the role chance plays in selective systems deserves some attention.

Steve Travis dealt with attractions of the Grammar in an early post on this blog. Like Steve, I went to a comprehensive school. But I find the alternative less appealing.

The Guardian article shows one of the reasons why. Variation between tests taken on different days by the same pupil is so great that for one-third of children the decision as to where they go is no more than chance. Indeed the problem is almost certainly worse than this. Children develop at different rates (if all children sat the same selection tests and were marked in the same way Grammar schools would be full of girls). Children would do not do well at eleven may be much more able at thirteen or fourteen.

But the evidence of the PISA studies seems to be that the children who are branded as failures at eleven do react in the way you would expect. So countries with selective systems (Germany, Luxembourg) do badly, and countries where there is no selection until at least fourteen (Finland being the classic example) do well.

Here in the UK there is a dialogue of the deaf on the issue. Professor David Jesson comes up with interesting figures. The NGSA (check out that font) dismiss them (or say they donĀ“t matter).
posted by Peter Pigeon @ 9:03 am  
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"What is Liberalism?: I should say it means the acknowledgment in practical life of the truth that men are best governed who govern themselves; that the general sense of mankind, if left alone, will make for righteousness; that artificial privileges and restraints upon freedom, so far as they are not required in the interests of the community, are hurtful; and that the laws, while, of course, they cannot equalise conditions, can at least avoid aggravating inequalities, and ought to have for their object the securing to every man the best chance he can have of a good and useful life." C-B.

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