Thursday, 10 April 2008
78% of teenagers from affluent backgrounds aspire to go to university in comparison to their deprived counterparts where only 55% of them, live with this dream.
These are the results of the British Market Research Bureau which characterizes the failure of the multi million pound projects which were introduced to abridge the gap between the many proportions of society, mainly the class divide.
Not only that, but there are visible regional and gender differences as well. 71% of Londoners want to go university in comparison to a meagre 57% from East Anglia along with a 6% variance between girls and boys.
However, it is notable that in general the percentage of teenagers who would like to go to university has increased from 53% in 2000 to 62% in 2008.
These research results raise many issues such as:
Does the higher aspiration level necessarily signify that affluent children are more ambitious than deprived children? ....or have London teenagers really realized the importance of higher education? ....or, are the ideas such as “Glass ceiling” still in place for girls of which these statistics are a representation of?
But, what I find extremely intriguing here is the magnitude of this stubborn class -based educational divide in a developed nation such as ours. This phenomena exists worldwide, particularly in under developed nations where opportunities are scarce but when the government provides a loan to manage all expenses especially to low income earning families AND you don’t have to pay the loan back after you start earning over £15,000 per annum then why should there be a reason for so much poverty of aspiration among the working class youth?
There are many projects such as the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) for students studying after 16, at colleges, and bursaries and scholarships at universities which are unavailable to the major population of the world. But despite such schemes, many individuals still choose to opt out and leave their potential untapped.
These circumstances leave us all with the responsibility, that we must highlight the importance of education to those unaware and oblivious to the demands of the world.
Saturday, 5 April 2008
It's a thought provoking extract though a bit long, but highly relevant to the goal that we are trying to achieve through this blog which explores the effects of increasing government interference and lack of funding options in strangling the development of British Universities.
Universities in the UK face two problems:
First, in almost all walks of life there has been excessive centralisation over the last few years, and universities have not escaped. In particular, any increase in spending or any new grant is laden like a Christmas tree with controls and reporting requirements. Universities are not simply given the authority to get on with what they are here to do. They are constantly under pressure to meet government requirements.
The two most obvious and damaging constraints are institutions being expected to make up for the deficiencies of secondary education, and the push for social inclusion.
Let me be clear about this. I am very strongly in favour of social inclusion as an objective of higher education policy. But I am not in favour of social inclusion at the expense of academic standards. At its crudest the widening participation agenda has been reckless in its impact on standards.
Secondly - and this is the most crucial element - universities here (and indeed in most of Europe) are left in a no man's land, in which they neither get enough funding from the state nor are they allowed to raise money themselves beyond the ridiculously low limits of the tuition fee. Universities today get 1.1% of GDP in this country, compared with America's 2.6%.
This is not something we can simply blame on Labour governments. Until the 1970s, universities were pretty well funded, but the expansion of higher education since then has been paid for by squeezing the amount of government money available per student. In the last two decades of the twentieth century we doubled the number of students and halved the amount of money given to them. And resources were squeezed particularly hard in the Conservative years, although this was a trend that was continued in the early Blair-Brown years too. I don't think the Conservatives can look back on their stewardship of universities with any great pride.
The problem was that we didn't have the courage of our convictions. We squeezed public spending on universities, but we didn't then say to universities: "You must go out and raise money yourselves".
At the root of all the problems facing universities in the UK and across Europe, there is a resource issue that we cannot go on ducking. If America spends roughly two-and-a-half times what we do on higher education - and moreover if they are spending two-and-a-half times what we do on a limited number of elite universities - we shouldn't be surprised if we fall further and further behind. And while we are resting on our laurels we must remember that China and India are coming up on the outside.
Universities have three main sources of revenue:
- The taxpayer
- Private endowments
- Tuition fees
Top-up fees have become a very emotive issue in this country, but really the answer is very simple. The main determinant of people's lifetime earnings is whether they go to university or not. Therefore, it does not seem unreasonable to me for some investment to be made by the students who will benefit. University is a middle class ramp-up, after all. It is perfectly crazy that parents are prepared to pay £10,000 or even £12,000 a year for private day school, but then they groan in horror about paying a few thousand pounds for tuition fees.
The most common argument levelled against tuition fees is that they put people from poorer backgrounds off going to university. Yet there is absolutely no evidence at all that this is the case.
It hasn't been the case in New Zealand, so why should it be so here? If you look at the social composition of the student population over the last 50 years the proportion of children from blue-collar families and the proportion of children from white-collar families has remained static. The proportion was exactly the same at the end of the last century as it was in the 1960s. The huge expansion of higher education simply has not drawn in a higher proportion of kids from working-class backgrounds.
THE WAY FORWARD:
Yet, is there the political appetite to face up to this problem and drive universities forward?
Gordon Brown is clearly genuinely interested in higher education. While Mr Blair can take some credit for having been converted to the principle of top-up fees by Roy Jenkins, I don't think he is really very concerned with the university sector. Probably the best thing Tony Blair has done for research was to leave Lord Sainsbury in the science minister's job for as long as he did.
Mr Brown is dogged by three factors:
- First is the sort of knee-jerk class war socialism that was discredited in the very public Laura Spence case at Oxford.
- Secondly, I think he is excessively enthusiastic about the management competence of American universities in comparison with ours. True, they may achieve a lot, but they are achieving a lot with vastly greater funds.
- Finally, I think Mr Brown is always inclined to exaggerate how much new money he has actually put into the system.
Of course, this would put a particular pressure on universities like Oxford and Cambridge to raise a large amount of money through endowment for generous bursary schemes. The battle that has been rumbling in the background at Oxford for years over governance is not irrelevant here. If we can demonstrate to alumni and benefactors that we are interested in their intellectual contribution to what we are trying to do, and that we are open to their advice, then it makes it much easier for us to encourage people to give money.
It is extremely difficult if we are effectively saying, "We don't want your opinions, we just want your cheques". It is frankly offensive to assume that any alumnus of Oxford who might donate has a secret yearning to transform the institution into Asda.
It is important for the Conservative party to avoid, under pressure, blocking off any options on top-up fees before the general election. I would be inclined to keep my options open, and then after an election I would want to establish a commission to explore the issue and look at real evidence.
That said, we don't have much time. Top-up fees will be reviewed again in 2009. I think it is very likely that a Brown government will either kick the ball into touch, or make a modest adjustment. Fees of £5,000 would be better than £3,000, but it still would not be enough revenue to support our cash-starved universities.
One of the most popular courses at Oxford - engineering and management - could be filled twice over with students, and there are lots of potentially exciting options for expansion, but it costs £15,000 a student to teach and we only get £5,000. We could subsidise it from other courses, but where does one stop with such an approach? The problem is the same for physics and management, and chemistry and management, to name just a couple.
We can no longer afford to bury our heads in the sand. We must loosen the red tape that binds British universities and allow them to raise the money they need to truly compete.
Wednesday, 2 April 2008
Sunday, 30 March 2008
In the same way, the approach and stance these kids formulate during their primary and secondary schooling directs them when they go to universities.
The latest PISA results show the UK's declining position in terms of its students' mathematical, scientific and reading abilities while Finland's claim to have a world class education system has been reinforced with the comparisons.Finland has secured the top position once again and is being closely followed by Hong Kong, China and Canada.
Peter Mortimore's article "A League Table to worry us All " gives detailed insight on UK's rankings in each domain.
Some of the issues which have been raised due to the results of this report include:
- UK's performance contrasts sharply with the rising scores in national tests such as SAT's and GCSE's even when the standards of PISA are held constant.
- Boys are outperforming girls in both Science and Maths.
- Streaming and testing regimes are proving to be less beneficial than had been estimated.
- Late compulsory starting age for school at seven is yielding much better outcomes than kindergarden schooling.
Nevertheless, critics claim that all PISA reveals is that if you cannot read the language fluently i.e have an immigrant background which a lot of students in UK do whereas Finland , Sweden, Japan and Korea have a homogeneous population you don't do particularly well at school.
This is an eye opener for many of us as it tells us that even if we are ranking very high in the world class ranking of universities we are gradually falling behind in our primary and secondary schooling.
Finnish and Swedish teachers who possess a high level of autonomy in shaping the curriculum according to their needs in comparison to our highly centralized and politically intervened one makes one ponder what we are aiming for.... world class education or curriculum confined knowledge?
Monday, 24 March 2008
This field of study is unknown to most but is gaining recognition as prestigious universities such as Stanford, Columbia and Oxford have introduced these programmes.
However, another source of recognition are some large scale projects as PISA, TIMSS and PIRLS who strive to assess the extent to which students are capable of full participation in society.
The programme for international student assessment (PISA) is project of the Organisation for Economic Co operation and Development (OECD) which examines the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students in three domains including scientific literacy, mathematics and reading .
It aspires to answer abstract questions including :
- Are young adults prepared to meet the challenges of the future?
- Are they able to analyse, reason and communicate their ideas effectively?
- Do they have the capacity to continue learning throughout life?
- Are some kinds of teaching and school organization more effective than others?
The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), on the other hand provides reliable and timely data on the mathematics and science achievement of U.S. students compared to students of other countries. It is carried out every four years at the fourth and eighth grades covering more than 60 countries of the world.
Such programmes bring out the actual reality of educational standards and their glory and plight as comparisons are made irrespective of financial resources and teaching methodology.
They can prove to be highly beneficial for our nation and its education policy makers as we can simply adopt the methods of the countries whose performance is exemplary and ensure that we maintain or embrace the necessary measures.
Friday, 21 March 2008
ONE exam per course per year with at most one resit: Denmark, France, Germany, Mexico, Switzerland, United Kingdom
ONE exam per course per year with at most two resits: Austria, The Netherlands
(Up to) TEN exams per course per year with right to resit as often as you wish:Italy