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Mixed Messages?

August 20, 2007

The BBC are carrying a report about how teens ‘cannot function in work‘. On the one hand, it is easy to write the report off as yet another example of the annual moral panic about slipping standards in children’s education… the old chestnut that pupils today aren’t as good as they were in the’olden days’.

I have to be honest, I think this report indicates one of the basic misconceptions about results which needs to be challenged. People hear in the news that there has been a 96.9% pass rate in the A-levels, and then do not understand why there is such a skills shortage. Part of the answer lies in the fact that the 96.9% pass rate is not actually a ‘pass’ rate as the general public understand it. It is really the total number of pupils who have achieved at a particular level… in other words, it is the sum of all of the pupils who have achieved at grades A, B, C, D, and E… It is not a ‘pass’ rate as such, it is the number who have achieved…

However, there was one very revealing admission in the report concerning social networking sites and this was the admission by CBI director general Richard Lambert that the pupils’ “…fluency with iPods, mobiles and MySpace has translated well into the workplace, and often gives them an edge over their bosses.” Maybe it’s just me, but this ‘aside’ is possibly one of the most exciting revelations I’ve heard yet with regards to social-networking’s role in education. When the DG of the CBI is admitting, not that pupils know more than bosses, but that this knowledge “…gives them [the] edge over the bosses…” then we know that it is time for schools to stop pretending that social networking is a distraction and start seeing it for what it is… an immensely valuable and powerful resource that we need to be teaching if we are to make a real and genuine attempt to prepare our pupils for the real world that awaits them after school…

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