Back to Basics

When I were a lad life was a bit more simpler, particularly when it came to education. You learned to read and write, do maths and basic sums in your head and as you moved on in the system picked up some specialisation rather than generalisation. It generally worked, most of us left literate and numerate, we also left fairly disciplined too, turn up for a lesson late without a damned good reason and you were in serious bother, often quite painful bother if you made a habit of it. Afterwards the brightest stayed on in 6th form and tried for Uni, the majority of us though entered the apprenticeship system and more often than not technical college. Bit different for girls, but they had similar career paths mapped out for them till they married and had kids. Yes it’s a fairly generic description, but by and large that’s how it worked for most of us.

What most of us would have been amazed at was if our Uni’s and technical colleges had been ordered to do this…


Universities should be required to teach employment skills as part of degree courses because employers believe too many graduates are unfit for the workplace, researchers said today.

They should offer crash courses in communication, problem solving, presentation skills, punctuality and customer relations to get students ready for full-time employment, it was claimed.

Universities were also told to set up more work experience placements and internships for undergraduates — particularly those on social sciences and humanities degrees — to prevent so many being consigned to the dole queue when they finish courses.

Workplace skills have been part of vocationally-oriented degrees such as engineering for several years.

But the latest study commissioned by Edge, the education charity, warned of a systematic failure to “promote employability across higher education”, meaning a “notable majority” of graduates were unable to function in the workplace.

By the time we reached there we were treated as adults, expected to behave in an adult manner and yes for all we could be a little wild in the evenings and weekends, we had a lot to learn, but nothing like that, because we’d been taught most of that in schools before the age of 16.Unfortunately for the kids of today decades of interference in education by idiot politicians has ruined a fairly robust and reliable system to the point where most kids who want a job are expected to go to Uni, but precious few are actually educated well enough to actually be there.

Back to basics got a bit of a bad name under the Major government (for good reasons) but with schools, that’s exactly what’s needed. Infants should concentrate on the 3 r’s and a program of streaming introduced so that if you can’t read, write or do basic maths, then you can’t progress to the next year.

Concentrate on the basics, then focus on teaching kids how to learn and research data and skills. Science, history and geography as well as a second language could then be introduced to a generation of kids who can find stuff out if they need to know or are simply just curious.

My greatest fear is that politicians, particularly those driven by dogma don’t want a generation prepared to question what’s actually going on or that is smart enough to find out either. The article suggests this is working quite well if employers are having to ask Uni’s to step in.

Education should be far too important to leave to politicians pontificating over, too much in the way of political agendas including equality, diversity and multiculturalism and too little actual education.

Hence the dumbing down and the overburdening of schools to the point where they can’t teach anything well.

All part of the plan no doubt.

21 comments for “Back to Basics

  1. June 6, 2011 at 5:42 pm

    I’ve taught on and off since 1976. I don’t think it’s really about politicians wanting to see an ignorant generation, but there’s been endless messing about with the system from within and without. When I started, children were expected to read and write a lot – you could simply set a title to an 11 year old and get 4 pages in the exercise book.

    They don’t do anything like as much now, they’re quite often barrack-room lawyers who know the limits to your authority and sanctions, and have far more distractions than previous generations. Elitism is out, so competition and emulation are out – even though many children would go for it if allowed, particularly boys who are naturally overtly competitive.

    Each new education secretary wants to make his mark quickly before he’s given something less awful in government, advisers and inspectors chuck in their innovative ideas, classroom teachers try to get noticed with new initiatives… a mess.

  2. June 6, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    There are some state schools where traditional values are still held. I am thinking of Reading School and Kendrick school in Reading. They consistently turn out well-mannered, confident, punctual and knowledgeable children. It would seem that this is not liked by some people so they are currently under threat of losing their ability to select their pupils. Should this removal of selectivity be successful I am convinced that the schools would deteriorate rapidly to the point where it would be necessary to teach the students employment skills as described.

    • June 7, 2011 at 5:51 am

      That just says it all. Why the incessant need to meddle?

  3. PPS
    June 6, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    They should offer crash courses in communication, problem solving, presentation skills, punctuality and customer relations to get students ready for full-time employment, it was claimed.

    Shouldn’t employers be teaching these skills as employers will benefit from employees with these skills?

    Having a degree doesn’t mean the same as being able to do a specific job.

    • June 6, 2011 at 9:02 pm

      That paragraph made me laugh

      Communication ~ speak clearly, don’t text or use acronyms in speech or say ‘like’ every fourth word.
      Presentation skills ~ Wash, comb your hair.
      Punctuality ~ Turn up on time.

    • ivan
      June 6, 2011 at 9:20 pm

      Shouldn’t employers be teaching these skills as employers will benefit from employees with these skills?

      Simple answer NO – that was the job of school and parents. Any person getting to university should have those skills already otherwise how can they do a degree course?

      • PPS
        June 6, 2011 at 11:19 pm

        Unless I’m mistaken a degree course is reading, listening to lectures, taking notes, completing assignments, papers, exams and other ACADEMIC type stuff.

        For some reason, which I am unable to fathom, some employers/students/newspapers/politicians seem to think that because someone can do that academic stuff they must be good at doing a job.

        That doesn’t make any sense to me.
        If anyone would care to explain that then I’d be very grateful.

  4. June 6, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    Go back to LSD and get them doing sums such as the following at 8 years of age, might set them off to a good start eh!

    Subtract £2 – 11s – 11d three farthings…. from £3 – 2s – 5d one farthing!

    Here the pupil can cope with adding and subtracting to the power of 10, 12 and 20, while coping with rudimentary fractions. Chuck in weights in pounds, ounces stone, hundredweights and long tons, then feet, yards, furlongs etc., and pretty soon, even if learning by rote you have an individual well equipped for life.

    On top of that we could go back to units with some sense like Fahrenheit, where 0° to 100° basically covers the range of temperatures for human comfort. Today we must do all between zero and thirty five degrees, what nonsense.

    By the way, I make the answer to my sum above a halfpenny short of half a guinea?

    • June 6, 2011 at 7:29 pm

      Agreed – to your point about the mental stimulation of Imperial measures, and to the answer to your subtraction.

      But shouldn’t it be BASE 10,12 & 20?

      • June 6, 2011 at 9:27 pm

        I am quite good at maths but I have no idea what you too are talking about :mrgreen:

      • June 7, 2011 at 6:46 am

        BASE is indeed what it should be. Thanks for pointing this out Sackerson.

        Perhaps in mitigation I can plead the excuse of too much blogging on the EU, where the BASE motivations of those behind the project have become confused with the POWER, which in reality they seek. Glad I got the sum right though, didn’t blot my copybook at least. 😳

  5. John
    June 6, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    My home town of Bournemouth has become a bit of a University town in the past 15 years or so, even though the establishment’s roots were as a mere college prior to that. I guess being by the seaside is a great marketing tool.

    But I can tell you that if you wander around the Asda in the centre of town (right by the student residence) it’s very easy to spot the students from the youngsters who have gone and got jobs in the shop.

    Almost without fail the students roam around in mindless lumbering packs with thier stupid haircuts and tattoos. Mumbling to each other whilst navigating the shop with a carton of milk in one hand and texting on an iPhone with the other. These are the kids who you can spot phoning thier mates from the freezer cabinets because they can’t choose a fucking pizza without assistance and then twittering about it afterwards. They are lifeless, fat, retarded, miserable mongs the lot of them.

    And when they apply for a job, thier eyes open just a little bit when they realise they might just have to arrive at work at 8am and be there until 5:30 or even 6pm, that they’ll have to look presentable, put thier fucking phones and mp3 players away and do some honest work without moaning about it.

    But in all honesty I’m actually lying about the previous paragraph, because most of the CVs I’ve seen from these ones are so crap that you never invite them in. The Indian youngsters who go into IT get good degrees, can write properly, turn up on time and work hard, which is why they get the jobs.

    The kids I see in Asda – they’d be better off being drowned as I cannot see what use they are. They just produce CO2 and keep the phone companies’ profits high.

  6. David A. Evans
    June 6, 2011 at 8:40 pm

    There should only be one arts degree allowed. Mathematics.
    If you count IT & programming as arts, I’ll allow that too. 😉

    Ditch all the other arts courses & put ’em to work.

    I class all the social sciences as ARTS, not sciences! 😉

    • June 8, 2011 at 8:43 am

      I have a BA from the University of York in Mathematics, so I agree whole heartedly.

  7. June 6, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    I agree that politicians have no place in education. It does enough damage to the country and the economy, keep swinging between left and right ideology. Doing it to young, growing children is just cruel.

  8. sheila struthers
    June 6, 2011 at 11:51 pm

    Politicians of whatever colour *have* no place in education. They squabble and “debate” minor cosmetic issues onstage while the same policies develop behind the scenes regardless.

    One of your fellow bloggers covered much of it recently:

    When the politicians promote joined-up services, that is exactly what is coming – a single view of the citizen, cradle to grave.
    Education is no longer a distinct policy area.

    Scotland is well ahead in this brave new world and makes quite an interseting case study:

    Our Curriculum for Excellence makes more sense when it is seen in the context of integrated services and the snow-balling amount of interoperable data being gathered about every citizen.

    Kenneth Roy of the Scottish Review has written a series of excellent articles exposing the Scottish surveillance scandal.

    I have been collating these, and other recent coverage on this discussion thread:

    Here is a post on Curriculum for Excellence which Subrosa was kind enough to host:

    Anyone who thinks still that the CfE emerged from Cathy’s(previous Labour administration) Big Education Debate should start here:

    “Curriculum for Excellence is transforming learning to prepare
    young people for the social, economic and environmental
    challenges of the 21st century. This process is part of an
    international project: the four capacities of Curriculum for
    Excellence mirror UNESCO’s ‘Four Pillars’ of education: learning
    to know, learning to do, learning to be and learning to live
    together (Learning: the Treasure Within’ UNESCO 1996). ”

    This deliberate dumbing down is only going to get worse. You can read Charlotte Iserbyt on this here:

    For a short introduction, watch here:

    The UNESCO Education for All agenda is being rolled out in our schools.

    This CFR link might imply this is about bringing basic education to children in third world countries who would otherwise have to toil in the fields all day.

    Nope – they mean ALL and they mean Global. We’re all being herded towards the same outcomes…

    • admin
      June 7, 2011 at 3:28 pm

      Absolutely – I quote Charlotte myself. Absolutely. This must be reversed – must be.

  9. Voice of Reason
    June 7, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    It isn’t (only) the politicians who have mucked up education. Here in the US, we have Schools of Education, who teach many completely off-the wall ideas: all children can learn to the same level; pedagogy matters more than content knowledge; all teaching and learning can be broken into rubrics and checklists.

    And when the public or government want to improve math and science teaching, whom do they contact? Hint: not the math and science specialists.
    @Ironies Too – Imperial is fine, unless you are trying to do science or engineering, then most of it is ugly and unworkable.
    @David A. Evans – is Mathematics only an art? A lot of the work that I do is applied.

  10. Andrew Duffin
    June 8, 2011 at 9:45 am

    The kind of “university” they are talking about was a poly before John Major started meddling with it, is staffed by lookalike thinkalike leftie know-nothings, and has since got even worse. It offers degrees in playing with computer games, playing with film and recording equipment, hairdressing, sports journalism, and suchlike.

    The students who do such things certainly need those skills.

    A University it ain’t.

    • DP111
      June 8, 2011 at 11:38 am

      Unfortunately, these polys, were good at what they did, were turned into universities, and then asked to do “stuff” for which they had no expertise. Then to level the playing field between traditional universities and the new ones, to hide the resulting disaster, standards were deliberately brought down by way of forcing traditional universities to admit students who would have gone to polys. Disaster all round – which will affect us for decades still to come.

  11. DP111
    June 8, 2011 at 11:30 am

    One of the penalties of incessant meddling with the education curricula is that one can ever know what in particular caused the mess – and mess it always will be. And the beauty is, blame is impossible to apportion.

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