Economic upturn linked to education system

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 September, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 September, 1999, 12:00am

As Anthony Ha's letter ('Examination system's cruel culture of failure', South China Morning Post, September 24) and Antony Leung Kam-chung's response graphically illustrate, the educational system is not only a 'cruel failure' but also economically and educationally wasteful.

The entire system is based on the discredited notion that a child's educational potential and aptitude can be measured at age 11.

This system ignores the non-academic achievements of the child such as sport, performing arts and computer literacy. It assumes that all children mature at the same rate and learn in the same way. It stigmatises students in Band Three, Four and Five schools as failures. It is even more divisive and elitist than the British system of the 1940s and 50s on which it is based.

The argument for a new system of comprehensive education of the kind introduced in Britain in the late 60s and 70s is now unanswerable. At the time, it was highly contentious and the apologists for the old system based on selection at 11 predicted catastrophe.

Britain's economic resurgence in the 80s and 90, which halted a century of economic decline, has proved the detractors of the comprehensive system completely wrong.

Significantly, the world's economic powerhouse, the United States, also has a system of comprehensive education.

Comprehensive education is inclusive and non-selective at the age of 11, and enables students to progress according to their abilities and aptitudes. It is educationally and socially stimulating for students. In addition, it enables all students to share the latest facilities with access to the latest technology.

At present, many Band Three, Four and Five schools have substandard equipment and facilities compared with Band One schools and compare very unfavourably with the English Schools Foundation schools.

Thus, for example, a student with a sporting prowess in a Band Five school is disadvantaged because at the age of 11 he or she did not perform well in a placement test.

In a rapidly changing world, sporting excellence is a big money earner. This economically wasteful system is both educationally and morally insupportable. It is time for a change.