"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Test-Textbook Cartel

What is that worthless thirty pounds that cost a hundred dollars in your child's backpack? Why, that is the latest tool developed by the education industrial complex to make the vast majority of children equally stupid around the world, or shall we say, as educationally flat as the EEG readings from Margaret Spellings' frontal lobes. But the children of the oligarchs and their guardians? No, no, they are still reading real books, so civilization is safe.

A sobering piece from the Guardian:
Exam boards are to review the way school textbooks are endorsed after leading authors complained that they are being leant on to write more simplistic texts to win the multi-million pound contracts.

Textbook writers today claim that they are being told to write books which encourage "parrot-learning" to get pupils through exams at the sacrifice of wider critical thinking and learning.

There is widespread concern that children are reading fewer books, losing confidence in reading and enjoying it less after an international study this week found that England had slipped to 19th of 45 countries and provinces in reading skills, down from third five years ago.

The Society of Authors says that in the competition to get an exam board's seal of approval and gain popularity in schools, publishers are producing increasingly narrow textbooks. Elizabeth Haylett, secretary of the society's educational writers group, said: "The textbooks that are being used are being reduced to answer books for the exams. There's no opportunity for children to read beyond the test. They are learning parrot-fashion."

One author of a science textbook, who asked not to be named, was told to write a factually incorrect answer because the mistake had been made in the curriculum and the book had to match. The guidelines say that examining bodies can endorse textbooks but not any one exclusively - schools have to be given options. Publishers cannot explicitly reference where the books' authors have been involved in the exam or curriculum design.

Sue Palmer worked in educational publishing from 1980 until four years ago when she left to write the book Toxic Childhood, which was highly critical of the government's testing regime. She said the guidelines were not being followed.

"It's a cartel - people are writing the exam and then the textbook. The long-term effect is it just becomes a tick list of learning."

Graham Taylor, of the Educational Publishers Council, said: "The idea that a textbook might be tailored to an exam curriculum is logical. Schools want to buy books which will help pupils. It's the schools making the decision and the publishers following."

John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of Schools and College Leaders, said: "Schools want good textbooks geared to the exam syllabus. There's nothing wrong with that but it has gone too far. The textbook should open up new areas of study as well as connecting with the syllabus."

A spokesman for the Joint Council for Qualifications, which represents the major exam boards, said: "Members of JCQ will be meeting next week to review the code of practice."

The educational publishing industry is worth hundreds of millions of pounds a year. Pearson, the largest educational publisher, projected profits of £491m last year.

1 comment:

  1. Permit me a brag. My counterpart and I have adopted AP books for all classes advanced or not and added a primary source reader. We teach, the books support our teaching. Not the other way around.