Education is at risk of drowning in a 'sea of jargon', admits qualifications boss

24th November 2016 at 13:56
SQA chief acknowledges the need for more clarity in the language it uses, after complaints about 'vague and verbose documentation'

The chief executive of a national qualifications body has admitted that education is in danger of falling into a “sea of jargon”.

Janet Brown, head of the Scottish Qualifications Authority, was responding to criticism from members of the Scottish Parliament's education and skills committee about how her organisation communicates with teachers.

“Do you think we are in danger of sinking in a sea of jargon?” asked Richard Lochhead, an SNP member of the committee. 

“In your opening remarks, you said the phrase ‘associated personalisation models’ – whatever that means...How on earth do we demystify Scottish education?”

Dr Brown said: “I think there is a danger that we all sink in jargon.”

She recalled the committee's visit to SQA’s headquarters last week, adding: “I kept reminding people to spell things out because, by the nature of any business and any organisation, you do use your own shorthand.”

She added that it was “a very, very key point” to demystify education and communicate “in a clear and concise way”.

'Avoid professional jargon'

The committee had called for submissions on the SQA’s performance, and found that one of the main issues raised was “vague and verbose documentation”.

Earlier this year, Scotland’s teachers were told to stop using educational jargon when they communicate with parents. New guidance from the Education Scotland agency followed concern that school reports and parents' evenings were blighted by professional language unfamiliar to families – including terms such as “developing”, “consolidating” or “secure”.

The guidance stated: "Do not spend time writing long reports for parents which describe lots of classwork or use professional jargon.”

But Education Scotland was itself criticised for using unclear language, in a submission ahead of yesterday’s parliamentary committee by the University of Stirling’s Professor Mark Priestley.

Curriculum guidance, he said, showed “a tendency for certain terminology to become fashionable for a while, then to be replaced by other terms” which “militate against clarity in curriculum development”.

Earlier this year Scotland's education secretary, John Swinney, promised to "declutter" the curriculum after complaints that teachers had become overwhelmed by too much – and often confusing – guidance.

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