The A's and the E's;Letter

9th April 1999 at 01:00
IN THEIR articles (TESS, March 26) Graham Dane and Marj Adams describe the arrogance of top streamssets and the low self-esteem of bottom streamssets. I quite agree that the behaviour of Marj Adams's A class towards the E class (refusing to sit beside them in a mixed class) was obnoxious, as is the use of terms such as thick or cre`me de la cre`me.

But it is the attitudes towards differences that are obnoxious, not the differences themselves. It is most unfortunate that policy inS1-S2 over the past 30 years has been devoted to denying, diminishing (by dumbing down) and disguising difference in ability rather than encouraging the acceptance and honouring of it.

Such a policy is the educational equivalent of promoting racial harmony by painting all humans green or carrying out sex change operations to make girls into boys or vice versa in order to root out gender discrimination.

What schools need to do instead is to recognise differences in ability, provide matching courses of study and, most important, focus on each individual's improvement and progress. After all the true and lasting basis for self-esteem is pride in one's own competence and consciousness of making progress, not comparison with others, even if favourable.

If the "progress file" favoured by the Educational Institute of Scotland for each individual pupil is based on this approach, the future of Scottish education may be brighter than it often looks at the moment.

David Hill Relugas Road, Edinburgh

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