More on education and consumers

Exam boards responsible for developing courses at secondary level compete with one another to sell their courses to schools. Unsurprisingly, schools like to buy courses that result in the best grades, since good grades = better position in league tables = more students at school = money to pay teachers and to buy resources. Given these facts, what’s the best way to sell your course? Make it easy, of course. It doesn’t take a genius to see that this brings a big risk of lowering standards. According to the Head of the Royal Society of Chemistry, this is exactly what has happened. Exam boards focus on simplicity and use multiple choice questions on exam papers, to the detriment of education. Studies carried out by the scientific community have found science papers with no maths in them, indeed, they have found science papers with no science in them. This all goes to show that applying a business model to education is a crap idea. You can read more here.

5 thoughts on “More on education and consumers

  1. Could the OP please elaborate on the conclusion: “This all goes to show that applying a business model to education is a crap idea.” The sentence is open to a variety of different interpretations. It seems to me that, if this statement is broadly interpreted as it appears to be intended, it is extremely controversial and not well-supported by the case at hand. Regardless of whether one wishes to understand education as a business-like enterprise, there will be incentives in any educational system which can be exploited, as in this case.

  2. Monkey – thanks for the link.

    I’d have to say “yes and no” to Veblen, so I’d love to hear just what part Anon had in mind. In the meantime, may I just object to this part:

    Whereas it may fairly be said that the personal equation once — in the days of scholastic learning — was the central and decisive factor in the systematization of knowledge, it is equally fair to say that in later time no effort is spared to eliminate all bias of personality from the technique or the results of science or scholarship. It is the “dry light of science” that is always in request, and great pains is taken to exclude all color of sentimentality.

    While the later part seems somewhat right, the contrast with scholastic learning is very questionable, at least as far as scholastic philosophy goes. (I’d argue this a bit, but I can’t believe anyone would really want to see it.)

  3. I don’t know anything about scholastic times, and even looking at the context can’t say I know what he means by “personal equation”, so I can’t comment on this passage. But the main idea I took out of the book is that academia is premised on the idea that knowledge is valuable apart from any applications it might have, but that this supposed value cannot be quantified (much less in monetary terms) and so is in practice neglected in running a university, with the focus instead going to big buildings, sports coaches, growth of the institution, etc. The original post illustrates this, in that what is valued is not the students’ learning but rather their grades, since this is what’s relevant to the schools’ actual goals (survival/expansion/prestige) as opposed to their professed goal (education). This style of appearance over reality makes me envy the old days of quantity over quality (though that may be idealisation).

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