EDITOR'S CHAIR: Are politicians the right people to be running education in Wales?

South Wales Argus: EDITOR'S CHAIR: Are politicians the right people to be running education in Wales? EDITOR'S CHAIR: Are politicians the right people to be running education in Wales?

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, 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 is simply being different for the sake of being different. 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 true failure.

There are many good schools and many great teachers in Wales. And they need more say in how education 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 (3)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

4:40pm Thu 5 Dec 13

GardenVarietyMushroom says...

Are politicians really the right people to be running anything? You could probably trust them to manage a bring and buy sale maybe. But even then you'd have to keep an eye on them to make sure they didn't steal anything.
Are politicians really the right people to be running anything? You could probably trust them to manage a bring and buy sale maybe. But even then you'd have to keep an eye on them to make sure they didn't steal anything. GardenVarietyMushroom

4:52pm Thu 5 Dec 13

Welshman76 says...

Pupils are trained like robots to pass tests and thus lack the skills to tackle anything unfamiliar and problem solve. Too much money is wasted on poor educational drives as education is treated more like a business rather than with an educational purpose of delivering well skilled, well rounded young people with the drive and determination to succeed rather than the fed up strop throwing disillusioned youth of today who are bored and switched off by the whole test system.
Pupils are trained like robots to pass tests and thus lack the skills to tackle anything unfamiliar and problem solve. Too much money is wasted on poor educational drives as education is treated more like a business rather than with an educational purpose of delivering well skilled, well rounded young people with the drive and determination to succeed rather than the fed up strop throwing disillusioned youth of today who are bored and switched off by the whole test system. Welshman76

7:41pm Thu 5 Dec 13

varteg1 says...

Politicians, which are defined by their 'policies', which are often of no use to those that elect them, as they invariably tend to favour pet schemes and personal; aspirations.

So the answer has to be NO......nor are they even fit to be running anything to do with public service.

They should be drummed out of public life altogether .They are a curse.

We all know or suspect what the priorities are, but due to partisan adherence to some esoteric interpretation by these folk of what is really needed to run a successful and culturally sound eco-society, we do not get what we want, need, and expect from this cosy cartel that comprise the notorious political front, whose most vocal exponents create policies suited to their own choices.

In the meanwhile, our roads are crumbling, our kids demeaned by
failing to match almost third world pupils, pet schemes get approved whilst important schemes with substantial private funding behind them get thrown out.
In Torfaen the Council workforce has decreased substantially by the Council setting up pseudo private firms, in housing, street cleaning, waste disposal, and no doubt others, with education rapidly becoming a political football through the use of private schooling, open to any Tom Dick or Harry to start his own 'academy' faith school and no doubt sooner or later some other sort that the public will find abhorrent.

I will pass on the Cymraeg stuff, a sore point with a vast number who live here and across Wales, and which is costing the taxpayer inordinate sums in funding.

These political decisions at both local and national level are destroying any attempt at democratic choice or value.
Democracy is a falling star in the evil empire in which the only beneficiaries are the self serving politicians.
So why do we need them, Labour Tory, LD's, and all the rest, they claim to be for the people, but the truth is, the only PEOPLE they are for is the career politicians themselves.
Politicians, which are defined by their 'policies', which are often of no use to those that elect them, as they invariably tend to favour pet schemes and personal; aspirations. So the answer has to be NO......nor are they even fit to be running anything to do with public service. They should be drummed out of public life altogether .They are a curse. We all know or suspect what the priorities are, but due to partisan adherence to some esoteric interpretation by these folk of what is really needed to run a successful and culturally sound eco-society, we do not get what we want, need, and expect from this cosy cartel that comprise the notorious political front, whose most vocal exponents create policies suited to their own choices. In the meanwhile, our roads are crumbling, our kids demeaned by failing to match almost third world pupils, pet schemes get approved whilst important schemes with substantial private funding behind them get thrown out. In Torfaen the Council workforce has decreased substantially by the Council setting up pseudo private firms, in housing, street cleaning, waste disposal, and no doubt others, with education rapidly becoming a political football through the use of private schooling, open to any Tom Dick or Harry to start his own 'academy' faith school and no doubt sooner or later some other sort that the public will find abhorrent. I will pass on the Cymraeg stuff, a sore point with a vast number who live here and across Wales, and which is costing the taxpayer inordinate sums in funding. These political decisions at both local and national level are destroying any attempt at democratic choice or value. Democracy is a falling star in the evil empire in which the only beneficiaries are the self serving politicians. So why do we need them, Labour Tory, LD's, and all the rest, they claim to be for the people, but the truth is, the only PEOPLE they are for is the career politicians themselves. varteg1

Comments are closed on this article.

click2find

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree