Specializing at 16

College-bound students in Britain specialize too early, argues Michael Prowse in the Financial Times.

Successive governments have steadily increased the target for participation in higher education (it is now 50 per cent and probably unrealistically high). They have made A-levels easier so that a higher proportion of pupils can satisfy university entry requirements. The result is a curriculum that serves nobody’s interests. The exams are no longer demanding enough for the able pupils for whom they were first created. And the “pick and mix” provisions mean that students are now designing absurd curricula for themselves.

Where else in the world can students prepare for university without needing to study any of the following: maths, their native language and literature, natural sciences or a foreign language? Where else can students meet college entry requirements while shunning all the difficult subjects and opting instead for an ersatz combination such as media studies, sociology and sport?

Via Jane Galt.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. Ken Summers says:

    “Where else in the world can students prepare for university without needing to study any of the following: maths, their native language and literature, natural sciences or a foreign language?”

    California.

    Oops. That’s not quite right. They actually have to take the courses, they just don’t need to learn anything.

    (Yes, I’m being facetious, but with Atkinson in charge of UC, I may also be prescient).

  2. Ken Summers says:

    “Where else in the world can students prepare for university without needing to study any of the following: maths, their native language and literature, natural sciences or a foreign language?”

    California.

    Oops. That’s not quite right. They actually have to take the courses, they just don’t need to learn anything.

    (Yes, I’m being facetious, but with Atkinson in charge of UC, I may also be prescient).

  3. Actually, it’s the whole US of A.

    Pick a set of hoops and start jumping through them.

  4. Actually, it’s the whole US of A.

    Pick a set of hoops and start jumping through them.

  5. Analogue Voter says:

    Er, right, so in the U.S. you need to study foreign languages to secure a university place?

    Jeezus, most American graduates don’t even know where Mexico is, let alone speak Spanish. Bush can’t make a coherent sentence in his OWN language, or am I misunderestimating him?

    It seems the FT author is a complete moron too, since in the UK, at least, you DO have to study maths, language, literature, and natural sciences for several years prior to Uni. It’s called school.

  6. Analogue Voter says:

    Er, right, so in the U.S. you need to study foreign languages to secure a university place?

    Jeezus, most American graduates don’t even know where Mexico is, let alone speak Spanish. Bush can’t make a coherent sentence in his OWN language, or am I misunderestimating him?

    It seems the FT author is a complete moron too, since in the UK, at least, you DO have to study maths, language, literature, and natural sciences for several years prior to Uni. It’s called school.

  7. Ken Summers says:

    Analogue: Actually, several years of math, science, and language are required for admission to the UC system. The problem is that schools are attempting to dumb-down the standards so that “under-represented” groups are also eligible, and Atkinson is attempting to destroy any standards at the university level.

    And the cheap shot at Bush: it belongs to the same category of media-generated memes as the Gerald-Ford-is-a-clumsy-oaf and the Carter-deserves-a-Nobel-Prize memes.

  8. Ken Summers says:

    Analogue: Actually, several years of math, science, and language are required for admission to the UC system. The problem is that schools are attempting to dumb-down the standards so that “under-represented” groups are also eligible, and Atkinson is attempting to destroy any standards at the university level.

    And the cheap shot at Bush: it belongs to the same category of media-generated memes as the Gerald-Ford-is-a-clumsy-oaf and the Carter-deserves-a-Nobel-Prize memes.

  9. Ken –

    The man can barely manage a coherent sentence in is own language, so the thought of him being let loose in a foreign tongue makes me weep with laughter. So ……

    exactly which language did George Bush learn in order to attend university (besides English)?

    And where can I get the tapes?

  10. Ken –

    The man can barely manage a coherent sentence in is own language, so the thought of him being let loose in a foreign tongue makes me weep with laughter. So ……

    exactly which language did George Bush learn in order to attend university (besides English)?

    And where can I get the tapes?

  11. AV:

    “Where else in the world can students prepare for university without needing to study **ANY** of the following: maths, their native language and literature, natural sciences or a foreign language?”
    (**EMPHASIS** added)

    According to Mr. Prowse, it’s not that a student can avoid one or some of the subjects on that list but that the student can avoid _all_ of them. I bet Mr. Bush would have been able to understand that without me explaining it to him.

  12. AV:

    “Where else in the world can students prepare for university without needing to study **ANY** of the following: maths, their native language and literature, natural sciences or a foreign language?”
    (**EMPHASIS** added)

    According to Mr. Prowse, it’s not that a student can avoid one or some of the subjects on that list but that the student can avoid _all_ of them. I bet Mr. Bush would have been able to understand that without me explaining it to him.

  13. Check out the sample Cambridge U applicant exam questions, which are supposed to measure “lateral thinking” and measure things that “aren’t taught”. Given this much diversity of educational knowledge, I suppose that’s their only option…

    Ananova article:
    http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_553428.html?menu=news.politics.education

    My post:
    http://www.kimberlyswygert.com/archives/000204.html

  14. Check out the sample Cambridge U applicant exam questions, which are supposed to measure “lateral thinking” and measure things that “aren’t taught”. Given this much diversity of educational knowledge, I suppose that’s their only option…

    Ananova article:
    http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_553428.html?menu=news.politics.education

    My post:
    http://www.kimberlyswygert.com/archives/000204.html

  15. A. V. – I have a minor case of dyspraxia, which means I mangle words and sentences frequently. At the risk of boasting, I also got an A Bursary in my final year of high school with scholarships in chemistry and history (unfortunately I’d’ve only got money if I’d gotten three more scholarships, but I was reasonably impressed with myself anyway). I studied Latin at school and though I eventually dropped it for maths, sciences and history I got reasonably good grades. I’m now studying Spanish with my husband and though he’s far better at the spoken, I’m slightly better at the written.

    Speech difficulties do not mean that the speaker is stupid (or at least, do not mean that the speaker can’t get good grades at school, what this has to do with intelligence I leave to your opinion), or cannot grasp the concepts involved in a foreign language. Anymore than someone being a wheelchair means they’re stupid. Criticise the President of the USA on the basis of his policies, if you like. But I really hate people thinking that speech problems mean that I’m stupid (or George Bush is stupid).

  16. A. V. – I have a minor case of dyspraxia, which means I mangle words and sentences frequently. At the risk of boasting, I also got an A Bursary in my final year of high school with scholarships in chemistry and history (unfortunately I’d’ve only got money if I’d gotten three more scholarships, but I was reasonably impressed with myself anyway). I studied Latin at school and though I eventually dropped it for maths, sciences and history I got reasonably good grades. I’m now studying Spanish with my husband and though he’s far better at the spoken, I’m slightly better at the written.

    Speech difficulties do not mean that the speaker is stupid (or at least, do not mean that the speaker can’t get good grades at school, what this has to do with intelligence I leave to your opinion), or cannot grasp the concepts involved in a foreign language. Anymore than someone being a wheelchair means they’re stupid. Criticise the President of the USA on the basis of his policies, if you like. But I really hate people thinking that speech problems mean that I’m stupid (or George Bush is stupid).

  17. Thanks!

  18. Thanks!