One thing that Argentina and the UK have in common is that both countries used to have a world-class education system.
“Schooling” (I stop short of describing it as education) in Argentina has largely been reduced to a series of facts and procedures to be memorised and reproduced in response to the corresponding question, which is itself previously memorised by the student; i.e. really rather similar to the SATS system in the UK.

Argentina is different to the UK in that internal auditing reveals that state schools have both the highest and the lowest results, with the private schools occupying a nicely-dressed block of mediocrity in the middle. This seems rather strange to me as an English person, but it was confirmed by a friend who teaches at an expensive private school in Argentina, who explains that many parents appear to prefer a “creche service matching their social class” as a priority over educational content.

In the few weeks that we have been back in the UK, we have witnessed something of a genteel back-lash over the SATS tests. The non-stampede has been led by the Head Teachers Association, followed up by a less than complimentary report from a few education advisors. What I find most surprising is that parents are virtually nowhere to be seen; they’re certainly not leading the revolt, and they’re not even coming out to support the efforts of the head-teachers et al. When parents are prepared to move house, lie about their address, send kiddo to live with Auntie Jemima, give sizeable “donations”, or change their religion to secure those elusive places in a prime school for six years, it seems very odd indeed that the same parents apparently don’t mind very much if two of those six years are frankly wasted.

Could it be that the SATS have survived this long because they actually hook into some parents’ need for competition between themselves? Witness a place where I used to shop for books. Today in a space previously housing “books of fun activities for kids”, I find racks of “books of exam papers, poorly disguised as fun activities for kids”. Who buys them? I wonder. A head teacher friend confirmed “Oh the parents love SATS, it’s all about your child getting a higher score than someone else’s child”. My sister came across a magazine article on “packed lunches to help your child get ahead”. Among the recipes for alfalfa and apricot on ciabatta, the article included the advice that although a parent might relapse and include the odd chocolate bar, this should not be done on days when child goes to play at friends’ houses after school, lest lax parent be looked down upon by parents of friends. Key learning outcomes:
Image is everything
Lie if it helps to preserve image
Never give anyone a chance to accept you as you are

The old adage said that “education is wasted on the young”. I suspect the real issue may not be entirely the fault of the young.

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