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Evolution? I don't believe it. Haven't you heard of Nessie?

news | Published in TES magazine on 6 July, 2012 | By: Irena Barker

Outrage as qualifications that dispute Darwinism get green light

They confidently claim that the Loch Ness monster disproves Darwinism and that there is clear proof of creationism. But that has not stopped a set of controversial Christian qualifications - used by dozens of British private schools - being described as comparable to international O and A levels.

The International Certificate of Christian Education (ICCE) has been rubber-stamped by a government agency, even though it is based on a curriculum that says the Bible is the "final authority" on scientific matters. It has prompted outrage from secular campaigners, while schools following the curriculum have come to its defence, saying that it is "academically very sound".

The exams, which are used in at least 34 English private schools and by home educators, are based around the Accelerated Christian Education programme, which originated in Texas, US, in the 1970s. Pupils study a range of subjects including science and English, but spend half their time learning from Bible-influenced US textbooks.

The National Academic Recognition Information Centre (Naric), which rules on the comparability of qualifications in the UK, has approved the exams following an investigation, deciding that they are comparable to mainstream qualifications.

It is the second time that Naric has backed the exams, which it first approved in 2009. Criticism of that decision - and of claims made in history and science textbooks used in the curriculum - drove the agency to review its findings, looking specifically at the exam content.

However, following a second review, Naric - which is funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills - is standing by its decision. "The study highlighted many strengths within the ICCE programme, while also presenting areas for improvement," it said in a statement.

Richy Thompson, schools campaigner at the British Humanist Association, said Naric was failing to ensure that children received a "rigorous" education. "How can a science qualification that is so far removed from the evidence on matters of evolution possibly be worth the equivalent of a Cambridge International Examinations A level in biology?" he said.

However, Paul Medlock, head of the private Maranatha Christian School in Swindon, Wiltshire - where the Accelerated Christian Education curriculum forms a "major" part of children's learning - said that the courses were "academically rigorous".

He said his pupils took ICCE exams in place of GCSEs and A levels and had been accepted by good universities in the UK. Claims made in some of the textbooks, such as that the Loch Ness monster disproves Darwinism, were "interesting discussion points" for pupils, he added.

"We buy into the curriculum and we use it as we see fit; we are not signing up to an ideology," Mr Medlock said. "There are things I wouldn't necessarily align myself with, but these become interesting discussion points for the pupils. Whatever programme you look at, there will be something in it that is inaccurate, as our understanding is changing all the time."

Mr Medlock said his son was part of the first year group at Maranatha Christian School not to take mainstream exams; he went on to study at both Durham and Cambridge universities.

In a statement, Naric said its comparability assessments were for the individual ICCE exams and not the Accelerated Christian Education curriculum materials in isolation. "The study involved analyses of the qualifications' core components in terms of learning outcomes, content, duration, modes of learning and assessment and quality assurance," it added.

Christian Education Europe, the sole distributor of the Accelerated Christian Education curriculum and the ICCE exams in Europe, declined to comment.

See 'The view from here', page 20


Some of the claims made in Accelerated Christian Education curriculum materials:

A science textbook denies that the sun is powered by nuclear fusion and says its creation took place "a few thousand years ago".

Evolution is described as an "indefensible theory".

One textbook says "no transitional fossils exist".

A current course textbook describes homosexuality as a "learned behaviour".

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Comment (4)

  • I am married to a Texan and lived in the USA for some years... I would not think it advisable to adhere to any religious based 'education' coming out of the southern states of America! The strange and fact-less nonsense that passes for 'proof' from Kentucky downwards is laughable at best and terrifying at worst, particularly when one realises they are actually very serious! There is also a frantic (verging on the hysterical at times) need to ignore or 'disprove' any and all scientific knowledge of the universe and physics. It's a very closed and blinkered place in many ways, where the insular and paranoid religious viewpoint always outweighs the rational and scientific.

    That said, if you actually explore what 'being a Christian' actually means in a deeper theological way, very few people seem to be able to produce a coherent or logical description or even a deeper understanding of its meaning on a day to day basis. It's one of the strangest experiences I have had in my life and was more akin to conversing wit, say, the Moonies than what I had originally thought of as people with a Christian philosophy.

    So, in a nutshell (no pun intended), avoid Texan based religious academia!

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    Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    6 July, 2012


  • Ignoring the single largest issue - that religious education chews up and spits out those whose cognitive styles don't fit within it. Which is to say the not emotionally oriented, those whose 'Theory of Mind' is not generalised to the whole environment (as opposed to just the genuinely human portion thereof). Let's look at the choice sound-bites provided.

    "A science textbook denies that the sun is powered by nuclear fusion and says its creation took place "a few thousand years ago".
    OK, so we're ignoring the last 150 years or so of physics and chemistry. Sorry, how is this equivalent to anything in modern academia?

    "Evolution is described as an "indefensible theory."
    And Nessy, an unproven supposition, along with Sasquatch and the Mokele-Mbembe, is? There are Italian Wall-Lizards, American rabbits and Nylon-eating bacteria that are only explicable through the theory. What could have been the biggest challenge to the theory, DNA, underscored it, with a few minor corrections to cladistics. Indefensible? I think not.

    "One textbook says "no transitional fossils exist".
    Said text book might like to look into how Tiktaalik, the transitional fossil between lobe-finned fish and amphibians was discovered, then, as that's a case where the transitional fossil was hypothesized and then actively sought (and found), where most others have just been found and integrated.

    "A current course textbook describes homosexuality as a "learned behaviour".
    If that were true then heterosexuality would be, too. I'm guessing said text book doesn't want to defend that position.

    So, a mature student who has just finished their first year at university can, without resorting to Google, ask reasonable and serious questions about this "comparable" educational text. What would happen if a real scientist, academic or teacher had a go?

    No, this type of fantasist education is pre-Enlightenment rubbish that does not equip children for the world they will face, it only equips them to fit into theist-centric environments, which is fine for Sunday school and their local congregation, but not so helpful in a world where Higgs-Bosons are discovered and cancer is cured with intricate protein technologies. Frankly, I'd rather m children were taught based on Æsop's fables.

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    6 July, 2012


  • I can guarantee that no good university in the UK would accept ICCE qualifications in lieu of A levels for any subject with the possible exception of theology and divinity (which are not offered by all Russell group universities). I note that both Durham and Cambridge have divinity departments - presumably Mr Medlock's son was admitted to those.

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    3 February, 2013


  • Actually, oldpom, that's not the case at all. ICCE graduates have been accepted to a range of subjects at a depressing number of universities. In fact, divinity or theology would be among the subject they are least likely to pick, because fundamentalists reject the doctrines accepted by most mainstream theology departments.

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    10 December, 2013


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