Education in the UK – still well below Par & going Downhill?


Striking Mill Workers 1920s

Striking Mill Workers 1920s


It doesn’t matter how old you are, or how clever you are, or how worldly wise you are, or how cynical you are, or how optimistic you can be, or how poor you are – you can still be SHOCKED!

And what could be more shocking to any of us than the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) coming out with a sensible statement? Perhaps it is all down to new leadership (John Cridland took over as Director General in 2011)?

The CBI is a mouthy lobbying organisation that pontificates on behalf of our lords & masters of industry (half a million members). Their frequent outpourings are treated by the media as being of some significance and worthy of attention, when in fact it is just the promulgation of the vested interests of a powerful bunch of nobodies. You might classify them as being the employers’ equivalent of the Unions, but that would be to assign them an undeserved status – but you can certainly classify them as being anti-worker. The CBI was a major opponent of the UK’s Minimum Wage for example – falsely claiming that thousands of jobs would be lost & thousands of businesses sent to the wall.

The CBI is normally headed by a chief who has and will never achieve anything – but let’s see what happens with Cridland, and give him a chance shall we?

One of the most galling things in Britain is that employers are constantly being idolised and revered as so called “wealth creators” for the country and “job makers” for our communities. This belies the fact that this so much admired section of society are in it for one, and for one reason only – their own utterly selfish means of power and self-wealth generation. If any employer said they were in business to ‘create jobs & income for their fellow mankind’ they would be sent to the ‘funny farm’ and would be kept in the asylum under sedation until they had recanted!

Employers will ship in cheap workers from anywhere in the world they can get away with – sod their local community or indeed their nation! Which UK operating  companies make the BIGGEST profits? The ones paying their workers the UK’s Minimum Wage and handing out ‘zero hours’ contracts of course. Of yes employers are the magnanimous salt of the earth. NOT.

Over generations we have seen how the employers had abused their workers, never given a shit about their welfare or that of their children – only about making the maximum money for themselves. They are only constrained a bit when society steps-in and introduces rules and standards to partly save the health and lives of the workers.

It beggars belief that employers were allowed to destroy the lives of so many people & families in the past (and will do so even now whenever they can get away with it). What examples still leave us in horror?

What about the alkaline industry from the early 1800s with health hazardous working conditions and pollution, only curtailed by ongoing controls like under the Alkali Act 1863. How about the coal pit owners, raking-in profits while their miners worked a mile underground breathing a dust filled smog, in a dangerous and precarious situation; to this day thousands STILL dying from the consequences of even the modern coalmines twenty five years after all the main pits closed (while probably the descendents of the old pit owners continue to live their lives in luxury). How about the mill owners who worked their employees (including 16hr days for 10 year old children) to virtual death in dreadful conditions (survival age was about twenty years at the time of the industrial revolution – weakness, malnourishment, illness, epidemics). Of course there is also the tragedy of the asbestos industry of the late 19th century, which caused serious health problems, not only to workers producing it but also to those using it or exposed to it – cancer, asbestosis (lung fibrosis), skin warts, pleural plaques & thickening, chest and neck problems. Oh yes, the occupational risks were medically identified as early as the nineteen twenties – but that didn’t stop all and sundry employers making their quick buck for the next 50 years did it!

Pollution of London air was a known health problem since the thirteenth century (when burning of sea coal was prohibited) but it was allowed to carry and get worse through the pressure of industry from the time of  steam engines and furnaces and then other commerce over the years – until the great smog of 1952 with forty thousand premature deaths in a few weeks (respiratory disease deaths, bronchitis, emphysema, cardiovascular disease), before effective steps were taken to produce clean air!.

Chemical plants have been exposing their communities to high risk pollution for generations – one example being Runcorn (NW England) which was medically recorded as early as 1880 for being such a health risk polluter, but still the modern plant was scientifically deemed to be the possible cause of excess kidney disease mortality in the area well over 100 years LATER! (And that was despite our ‘updated controls over the ‘couldn’t –care-less’ attitude of employers!).

Well then. What was so refreshing about a CBI statement? It is that they oppose exam regulator Ofqual’s proposal to remove practical science experiments from GCSE & A-level exams; they suggest that schools are turning into exam factories. They have at last hit a nail on the head!

Educational reforms for decades have been taking Britain down totally the wrong road. It is obvious that in the modern high tech world we need a well educated population, but we certainly DON’T need 65 million astrophysicists. The basis of education is not simply to learn facts BUT to learn to THINK! Modern school education sets out to get pupils through exams, pass at any cost, achieve good grades, and get the School to the top of the league table! The pupils they turn out have no idea how to survive in the real world, no idea how to seize opportunity, no idea how to relate to others, no idea how to think for themselves, no idea how to extrapolate from one fact into a new thought. Schools fill youngsters, who don’t want to get their hands dirty, full of ‘self esteem’ when they have in fact achieved nothing yet.

Everyone now has to be an academic – long gone are the days when people could be congratulated & admired for their non-academic skills (like their artistry, or rapport with animals, or working with their hands). Nurses for example used to learn their skills on the wards and also studied for their qualifications while they continued to care for the sick & elderly. Now? They go to university to get a degree – and so some of them end up with no idea how to actually care about their poor patients (some progress that!)

Education really starts in the home and is kicked-off, and supported throughout school by caring parents.




A while ago we went on eurostar to Brussels. As we waited in the London terminal, there was an under 5 year old Chinese lad with his dad. For the whole 25 minutes he was spoken to and skilled– he was told to count the tiles on the floor, or read out the signs on the wall, or say how many empty chairs there were, etc. The British youngsters were instructed to sit down, be quiet, behave themselves, and just wait as the train would be coming soon. What does that tell you? If you travel abroad, to say Singapore, you will find the same East Asian committed parental attitude to education and their kids’ development. Our UK Mums & Dads need to learn to care, put more effort in, and recognise the importance of education. Also, Exam authorities need to stop awarding A double plus grades for mediocre performances!]

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