In a survey of more than 1,000 academics by Times Higher Education magazine it is claimed that academic standards at British universities is in decline, the predominant reason for this is, it claims, that universities are cramming in too many students.
Star Column: Minds before money is right for education
An education system with financial viability at the core is bound to suffer and surely it is not only the universities and further education that is suffering as a result of this “bums on seats” culture.
It is well known that one of the main reasons why parents, who are in a position financially to do so, choose to send their children to independent schools as a result of the smaller class sizes than can be found in many state funded schools. More individual attention and a curriculum designed around the needs of individual pupils are not the only benefits that pupils gain from an independent education, but it is obvious that, with fewer children per teacher the learners are bound to benefit.
The other concern that arose from the research was the inflation of grades to impress “money-obsessed” senior managers in order to secure more funding. According to the Times Higher survey 18.4 per cent of students graduated with a first class degree last year compared with 11 per cent of students a decade earlier. As soon as financial benefit is linked to academic performance issues such as this will arise.
I have heard of schools inflating either individual children’s ability in order to impress parents and secure continued attendance at the school or increase an average percentage score so that it would appear that the children in a cohort have been “better taught” in order to keep members of the senior leadership off their back.
The business of education should concern everyone; the best interests of children and young people should be at the forefront of every decision that is made in educational establishments, schools, colleges and universities, irrespective of financial benefit.
Young people and parents deserve high-quality teaching with education professionals being able to assess and report honestly about a learner’s ability and what they need to do in order to improve further.
Guy Willat is Principal of Rudston Preparatory School in Rotherham