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Stifled research

Friday March 31 2000 IS IT just a coincidence that the Scottish Executive should notify its intention to withdraw funding from the Scottish Council for Research in Education at the same time that the Minister for Children and Education should be publicly expressing his doubts as to the value of educational research? It appears that the

Government wants to expose the educational research process to the full rigour of market forces

in the expectation that this will improve the quality of educational research.

But how does such a proposal differ significantly from the present system where bids are sought from "contractors" to undertake research? If the quality of much educational research has been weak then the Government has only itself to blame, given that "contractors" end to give the funder what they think is wanted or avoid giving what they think is not wanted.

As a consequence a docile research community has been created producing what the senior chief inspector of schools, Douglas Osler, describes as "ineffective" research.

However, when critical comment is occasionally made then the Government calls into play a variety of sanctions - either by withdrawing contracts or threatening to remove grants from academic journals which publish articles critical of government policy. What this Government appears unwilling to tolerate is a strong and independent voice in education - the kind of voice that the Scottish Council for Research in Education could provide.

Robin Jackson

Deeview Gardens

Drumoak

Aberdeenshire

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