Dumbing Down for a Decade

This appeared on the UK’s Daily Mail website and provokes thought about the adequacy of some educational systems and what can be done to make improvements.

British pupils have slipped down international league tables in key subjects over the past decade.

The most authoritative comparison is the Programme for International Student Assessment carried out by the OECD. It is based on tests given to 15-year-olds in up to 65 countries.

When first carried out in 2000, the UK was ranked fourth in science, seventh in literacy and eighth in maths. The science ranking fell to 12th in 2003, 14th in 2006 and 16th in 2009.
In literacy the country sank to 11th in 2003, 17th in 2006 and 25th in 2009.

The most dramatic slump is in maths, where the ranking was 18th in 2003, 24th in 2006 and 28th in 2009.

Critics point out that the sample in the survey has grown across the years, from 43 countries in 2000 to 65 in the last study in 2009. But, even when this is taken into account, the UK has still slipped proportionately down the tables.

Under Michael Gove’s plans for a revival, pupils will be able to sit the new O-levels at 16 or 17 and the best pupils will be allowed to bypass the exams and go straight to A-levels.

Schools will be given the freedom to enter pupils for the exams when they are ready, rather than forcing everyone to sit them at 16.

Modular study will be abolished, with emphasis put on in-depth work and end of year exams rather than coursework that can be redone until it passes muster.

Pupils studying English literature will be banned from taking the text of plays into exams and maths pupils will be expected to learn complex subjects such as calculus in order to obtain an A grade.

Mr Gove believes the exams need to be tougher to prepare pupils for A-levels, which are also being made more rigorous.

Meanwhile, businesses will be asked to draw up a new CSE-style qualification for less able pupils – around one quarter of pupils struggle even to get D or E grades at GCSE.

Mr Gove thinks it is pointless to make those children sit the same O-level as those who are preparing to read a rigorous academic subject at Oxford or Cambridge.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2163263/Cameron-livid-wasnt-warned-plan-axe-GCSEs-Gove-new-O-level.html#ixzz1yehPY2du

Australian Chamber Orchestra with Danielle de Niese

Australian Chamber Orchestra
Directed by Richard Tognetti, with soprano Danielle de Niese

City Recital Hall, Angel Place
Saturday, June 9

Reviewed by Barry Walmsley

Full of wondrous surprises, the Australian Chamber Orchestra never fails to impress. Its programming choices along with guest artists keeps audiences enthralled. No less was Saturday’s performance by the ACO, with the Australian-born Danielle de Niese whose soprano voice was without flaw.

Ms de Niese’s interpretation of Carl Vine’s The Tree of Man (set to words from Patrick White’s award-winning novel by the same name), captured the lyricism of the words in each arching phrase. Vine’s writing for strings had the orchestra provide slowly pulsating tones, whilst mid-way the pizzicato enabled the pace to move (in line with the reference to “trains”).

Prior to hearing this world-premiere performance was the Symphony in D, K196/121 (La finta giardiniera) by Mozart. It was arresting for its brisk and bright commitment by the orchestra, coupled with a supreme clarity of line.

Mozart’s Exsultate jubilate, K 165 gave Ms de Niese the opportunity to display her considerable vocal agility, made more stunning by a very energetic pace. Hers is a voice with depth in the lower register and strong, but bell-like tones in the upper.

Cantilena Pacifica, composed by Richard Meale in 1979 was taken from the string quartet genre to enable Tognetti to be soloist with the orchestra. In this fresh setting, the strings’ subdued and languid quality gave scope for Tognetti achingly beautiful violin work throughout.

Schubert’s Death and the Maiden, K 531 and the String Quartet in D minor, D 810 (both arranged for orchestra by Tognetti) concluded the concert. Ms de Niese’s sense of foreboding was evident in the art song, whilst the orchestra took the quartet arrangement to new heights with poignancy contrasting with dramatic flair.

(This review was first published at www.acoblog.com.au, June 2012)