Let the education consumer beware

10th November 1995 at 00:00
Deliver (diliv ) v. to free; to liberate; to send; to aid in the birth of; to rid; to divest; to unload; to hand over to another's possession

English, maths, science and RE are no longer taught in schools, Instead the national curriculum is"delivered". I have never been quite sure what is meant by the "delivery" of the curriculum.

Are we talking obstetrics here? Is the teacher's role that of a midwife, presiding over the long, difficult and painful process of coaxing into life an infant conceived in a moment of madness by Men in Suits at the Department for Education and Employment?

So irresponsible. If they were the ones who had to look after the children, they might be a bit more careful.

Or is a cricketing analogy intended, with the teacher as bowler, varying his pace and style of delivery in a determined attempt to get past the batter's defence of indifference and boredom. No, no, I am being unfair: school may sometimes be a little uninspiring, but it is never as mind-numbingly tedious as cricket.

Perhaps the curriculum is to be delivered as lectures are - that well-known process by which information is transferred from teacher to student without passing through the mind of either.

Or is a Biblical reading of the word required, as in "deliver us from evil". Certainly many teachers would like to deliver the curriculum out of the hands of those who believe they know all about education because they once went to school, and give it back to those who have never left.

I think the true interpretation of the word one which implies total lack of accountability on the part of the deliverer. The national curriculum is delivered in the same sense that the National Loaf was 50 years ago - by grocers' boys on bicycles. They could not be held responsible for the curious grey colour and gritty, indigestible texture any more than can today's teachers."Don't blame me, Guv. I only deliver the stuff."

Perhaps a more modern metaphor is intended: not bread but pizza (bread and ketchup). Presentation and attitude are all important here: a really nice colourful box, served with a smile.

The product is presented individually packaged, piping hot, with plenty of eye appeal and spray-on aroma. Some delivery services will even chop it up into convenient bite-sized pieces for the customer and spoonfeed it.

Of course the ultimate goal is a national chain of pizza delivery outlets (or schools, as they are sometimes called) which will ensure that every customer receives an standardised product, with absolutely no discrimination on the grounds of sex, ability, ethnic background or personal preference.

You want a little extra pepperoni on yours? Tough. The chef is a factory, the kitchen is a microwave. And the delivery boy? Well, it's more than his job's worth to tamper with the goods.

What about the customers? They are left feeling vaguely dissatisfied, wanting more, but not quite sure what, and with a lingering memory on the tongue of monosodium glutamate. Have a nice day.

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