EDITOR'S CHAIR: Are politicians the right people to be running education in Wales?
10:40am Wednesday 4th December 2013 in News
THE Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) results come out every three years.
Children sit the Pisa tests across Europe, North and South America, Australasia and parts of the Middle East and Asia.
The results are seen as the benchmark for education standards. The 2012 results came out this week.
Wales is below average in all three of the main disciplines tested - reading, maths and science - is bottom of the pile in the UK, and has lower scores across the board than it did in 2006.
It's a pretty bleak picture.
The Welsh Government's education minister Huw Lewis reacted to the results by saying now was not the time for blame, before effectively pinning the blame on teachers who he said have to 'step up' to the challenge of getting Wales into Pisa's top 20.
Any Welsh education minister is in a difficult position when dealing with the low standard of education in our nation.
UK Governments have the advantage - usually - of blaming whoever was in power before them.
Since devolution, there have only ever been Labour (or Labour-led) governments in Wales. They have no-one to blame but themselves.
The Literacy and Numeracy Framework and school banding systems introduced by Mr Lewis' predecessor Leighton Andrews are meant to turn the Welsh education system into one of the best in the world by the time the next Pisa tests are taken by pupils in 2015.
It is a tall order, to say the least.
There are some aspects of education in Wales that the Welsh Government really needs to take a long, hard look at.
The Welsh Baccalaureate, for instance, is a qualification that has little worth in the outside world and does little to stretch the pupils who take it. A Wales-only qualification does not make education in the Principality any better, it just makes it different for the sake of being different.
Too many schools see GCSE and A-level results as the be all and end all, largely because politicians place far too much emphasis on them.
That means too many pupils are simply being taught how to pass exams rather than receiving a well-rounded education from inspirational teachers that prepares them properly for adult life.
I am not suggesting for a moment that exam results are not important. But I also hold the view that taking a child with little or no academic ability at a young age and improving them to a level where they gain a few qualifications or are ready to undertake vocational training successfully should be seen as an achievement.
All too often that is not the case and such children are not even entered for exams for fear of lowering a school's pass rate.
In my book, that is a true failure of our education system.
There are many good schools and many great teachers in Wales. And they need to have a greater say in how the education system is run.
Politicians in Wales and the UK have meddled and interfered with education for decades. They have not been successful.
All too often ministers have no experience of education and no understanding of what actually goes on in our schools. Yet they are in charge.
There are, of course, poor teachers and effective politicians.
Teachers who are not up to the task should be rooted out of the system. But so should poor politicians.
What we need is a combination of our best schools, teachers and politicians joining forces for the good of education in Wales.
We need these people to be in complete agreement about the best way forward.
And we need an understanding and acceptance that a good education is not just about how many A-grades children achieve.
The Welsh Government has set itself some tough targets for the next set of Pisa tests.
If they are achieved then Mr Lewis and company will deserve the highest praise.
But if the politicians we entrust with our children's futures fail yet again then it might be time to accept they are not the best people (and by that I mean all politicians) to be in charge.
Comments are closed on this article.