Third rate cheats in power;Letter

1st October 1999 at 01:00
If there are still people who doubt that the Scottish education system is third rate, the scales must finally be lifted from their eyes by the latest edict from the Scottish Qualifications Authority about writing in Standard grade modern language exams.

It has long been widely recognised that pupils' performance in writing in the foreign language is pretty abysmal.

So what do those in positions of power propose doing to tackle some of the obvious root causes of the problem? Will they sweep away the demonstrable nonsense of mixed-ability classes? Perhaps begin to combat the lack of formal grammar teaching in English as well as in the foreign language? Or even condemn schools' almost universal refusal to tell pupils they have failed when their work is not good enough?

No, they will do none of these. Instead the SQA will issue the content of the writing papers in January so that pupils can "practise, prepare, draft and re-draft" before taking the exam in May!

Until now, getting hold of the exam paper in advance to learn up specific answers has been called cheating - and that is precisely what the SQA is doing in this case.

It will be cheating pupils and public by issuing worthless paper qualifications while pretending that everything is getting better by pointing to vastly increased numbers of pupils getting very good grades. All this happens with the connivance, it seems, of the educational establishment.

What do Messrs Tuck, Osler and Galbraith have to say about quality and standards in the light of this farrago? I suspect their comments might well fit on to the back of a postage stamp - along with the Lord's Prayer in French and German (drafted and redrafted over five months, of course).

Bill Cooper (long serving and despairing principal teacher of German) Highfield Circle Kinross

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