Wrong assessment;Letter

2nd July 1999 at 01:00
GEORGE MacBRIDE'S reported comments at the debate on internal assessment at the EIS annual meeting (TESS, June 18) reveal once more just how out of touch with educational reality the EIS leadership is and how culpable that leadership is in the sorry mess which is Higher Still.

Mr MacBride links those of us who have been indicating the undesirability of internal assessment with "right-wing think tanks''. Last year the EIS leadership was putting it to the press that we were a collection of "Trots, Militants and Nats''. Well, I suppose if you put that altogether it just says what we have always known - we represent everybody on this issue. Who, though, does the EIS leadership represent?

I would like to put to Mr MacBride this definition of a reactionary idea: a "progressive'' idea that does not work. The history of Scottish education over the last 30 years is of "reforms'' presented in `"progressive'' even "left-wing'' terms whose actual effects have been to deny genuinely educational openings to the bulk of the population by increasing quantity at the expense of quality - a device which can only really benefit those who are already educationally privileged.

Higher Still is the culmination of this truly reactionary movement. It is nothing more that a framework of assessment which, in combination with "target-setting'', "league tables'' and all the paraphernalia of false accounting with which entrepreneurial "culture'' seeks to lumber the education system, will provide the illusion of more and more people passing more and more qualifications while, in reality, the content of education is diminished and replaced by mere training and the senior school certificate is degraded.

The reported comments from Ron Tuck, the SQA's chief executive, and Michael O'Neill, President of the Association of Directors of Education, might indicate that at last the detailed points we have been making about internal assessment are getting through. Their language echoes ours.

Unfortunately, Mr Tuck appears to be offering the traditional cop-out solution - a monitoring committee. No need for that - internal assessment was never part of the consultation process. It is demonstrably open to misuse and downright abuse; it discriminates against those already disadvantaged. It must be removed from the system before it is too late.

Tony McManus Chair, Scottish Association of Teachers of Language and Literature, Edinburgh

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