Sunday 9 March 2003

There is an alternative

John Adamson, a Cambridge academic, writes about the government-mandated dumbing-down of his university. Rightly, he is angry. Like others, he observes that the biggest problem is the underperformance of the state school system. Does he have a solution?
There are two possible solutions. The first is obvious: reforming (and refunding) the state-run schooling system so that it can compete realistically with the independent sector - a remedy that the Treasury has neither the political will nor perhaps the imagination to attempt. The second is the fake: fixing the statistics - forcing the universities to take an even larger number of working-class candidates so that the nation's education deficit - the huge potential our state schools squander every year - does not look quite as disastrous as it really is. This, of course, is as cynical as it is meretricious: fiddling the accounts, Enron-style, to make a bankrupt business look as though it works.
I don't think that either of these "solutions" will do. What is needed is to get the state out of the education business altogether. State education is an oxymoron.