“Scots have a self-image of being frank and forthright. Within the professions at least, this is rarely justified. Agreement with official policy rather than plain speaking is the dominant form of discourse at the upper levels of Scottish education. Similar tendencies can be seen in law and medicine….”
“Change can be difficult and uncomfortable, but there is unlikely to be a better time to begin to dismantle some of the barriers which have impeded genuine growth. Scottish education needs to escape from the ‘iron cage’ of its own bureaucracy. This will require vision, honesty and courage, qualities that, sadly, have not been in plentiful supply among political leaders (of all parties) in recent years.”
On the SQA crisis: ‘At the heart of Scotland’s educational malaise is a serious deficit in the quality of thinking at the top. Such a climate is a recipe for the apotheosis of mediocrity. Too many of those in senior positions are ineffective time-servers, compliant functionaries or political opportunists.’
‘As for the other people on the forum, it would be surprising if any ‘wild cards’ are to be found, since the tried and tested mechanisms of patronage ensure that those who get through the vetting process have to be judged ‘sound’. In the conformist culture of Scottish education, any tendency to ‘rock the boat’ is unlikely to lead to career advancement.’ On the OECD review of the Curriculum for Excellence…
PISA results attract particular (and perhaps disproportionate) attention because they are now the only substantial source of comparative data available to Scottish policy makers. Walter Humes update explains why ‘refreshing’ CfE is unlikely to deliver change.
‘Revisiting our educational history might encourage us to question some of the prevailing orthodoxies of our time…Perhaps we should ask why there are no comparable radical voices in Scottish education today.’
‘Modern Scotland, both before and after devolution, emerges as a country that is more committed to bureaucracy than democracy’.
‘Official Scotland is a relatively small world and many of the key players meet and socialise on a regular basis. Cronyism with a Scottish accent is no more acceptable than the public school/Oxbridge variety…it exhibits many of the worst features of narrative privilege, bureaucratic defensiveness, professional protectionism and the abuse of patronage.’
The language of Scottish education needs to become less boastful and sentimental, and more honest. Professor Walter Humes calls for a national policy debate with people prepared to ask tough questions and challenge orthodoxies of an under-achieving education system.