Readers' Submissions

Dumbing Down Education

  • Written by Eddy
  • February 27th, 2007
  • 5 min read


Ajarn.com and other sites pose some interesting points and angles on the core debate on teacher recruitment criteria and I would like to add another facet. Before the melt down of the British Economy at the hands of the Trade Unions (pre Maggie Thatcher – see Winter of Discontent and the three day working week) England had a thriving, though dying, manufacturing industry. Though we didn't know it at the time, the traditional ways of life in Britain were about to change radically. Up until that time, university was rarely talked of as an option for school leavers at 16 years of age. Traditionally, one may follow older members of the family into the 'factory' / shipyard / steel mill / port / coal mine etc. or look at options for getting a trade. I'm talking of the days when it was normal for a school leaver to join a company / state run industry as a mail boy / tea boy / floor sweeper and retire on the board of directors / senior management. For those with a bit of wonderlust or a thirst for adventure there were the armed forces / police / prison service as well as the emergency services. Selection for any of these very worthy and fulfilling careers is extremely tough with high standards required in integrity, stamina, resourcefulness, depth of character and responsibility – all of which are tested to the extreme (I question how many of those traits graduates have to prove or are endowed with from a university education on political science or sociology etc?). During that day and age, some thirty years ago, university education was for those who wanted to enter the professions such as medical or legal. Indeed, teachers didn't go to university they went to … (at this point some of you may have to sit down and take a stiffener) are you ready for it?… Teacher Training College!

However, and alas, that world disappeared. During the resulting meltdown of the early 1980s it was decided that rather than release more school leavers to stagnate on welfare with no job prospects ahead – to swell the already huge numbers of unemployed, we should give them a further education so that, four years down the line and hopefully after we've solved the unemployment crisis, we would have a pool of highly educated new job seekers to fill our vacancies. A win : win for all you might say. Problem is, how do you suddenly fill universities with people educated for a working life? Give them a shot?, whispers the magic password in their ear or option C… dumb down the entrance requirements and create a load of useless courses and suddenly there is a place for all who can spell their name. O.K. maybe not as dumbed down as that but it had to be a significant dumbing down to get so many in. What's more, they came up with this great idea of turning the colleges and polytechnics into universities. Wow! How did they achieve that trick? Dead easy – they gave them a new name and said you are no longer Liverpool Poly – you are now Liverpool Uni! TaaTaa! Tommy Cooper couldn't have done it better!

So where does that leave us now? Well, firstly, we have a young population of would be educators who have just struck out into the world for the first time with a piece of paper but an unproven work ethic – hot off the boat having been recruited from their "Universities". On paper they can fulfill the demands of a third world's ministry of education (I use that term MoE very loosely). We, also, have an older generation with significant proven life and job skills and a long track record who are supposedly unemployable and, lastly, locally educated teachers who have gone through a system where it is normal policy for 'no-one to be failed', grades to be changed as tea money is passed under the table. University entrance is achieved through connections or sheer luck in the lottery called university entrance (watch the film out now) and once there it is totally acceptable to download from the internet all you need to present for portfolios. Indeed, a couple of years ago the government had to create a new law which stated that it was now unacceptable for the well-heeled and politicians to pay university lecturers to write their thesis! This occurred around the time that the then prime minister's son was in the spotlight for a well known family trait – yes you've guessed it, "the honest mistake" as the guy was caught with "a piece of paper" in the exam room of his university!

So, where does good old honest experience in teaching and life come into this debate on what makes a legitimate teacher? I mean, it was only a hundred years ago that "Little House on the Prarie" with its one room school and local lass as the only teacher for miles around was reality in the U.S.! Needs must and all of that… If I was a father and looked at these options I certainly wouldn't discount the second option out of hand and in many cases I would prefer it to any of the other two! So Thailand, be very careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water as is often the case! Think a little about the positives that all three can bring to the class, the long term problem solving education essential for your next generation and use all possibilities to maximise your options.

Stickman's thoughts:

It is heart breaking to see what is happening in some aspects of education in Thailand. I am sorry, I really am, but a lot of the people teaching in Thailand simply aren't up to the task. It is a travesty that kids are not getting the quality of education they yearn for. I could go on and on about this, but these comments would turn into one hell of a rant and I don't want to do that, so I'll leave it there…