Friday 31 July 2009

Creationist exams

Here is a story which, if true, is horrifying.

The National Recognition Information Centre (NARIC) have advised that a qualification that appears to contain creationist codswallop is equivalent to international A levels.

On the NARIC website, there is a news section, and an item there gives more information. To quote from that item:

"Using the NARIC benchmarking methodology, these qualifications have been closely examined in terms of their learning outcomes, assessment frameworks, underpinning quality assurance mechanisms, mode of learning and delivery. ...

This exercise continues to show how useful the NARIC benchmarking methodology is, it can really make a significant difference for less well known qualifications."

This explains how NARIC reached their conclusion. They focus on everything except content. So what do we know about the content?

The curriculum on this webpage does not go into detail, but the page does contain these words: "If, as a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, you believe that the Bible is the Creator’s reliable and trustworthy handbook to the whole of life, then you will be glad to hear that the ACE curriculum is written from the literal Bible creation base. In other words, we believe that God says what He means and means what He says."

So there probably is a good slug of creationism in there, along with perfectly sensible courses in mathematics, languages and so on.

I do not blame the perpetrators. They are entitled to their scientific illiteracy. But NARIC's action has exposed the weakness of an approach that disregards content and concentrates only on form. There is such a thing as factual error so gross that it renders the best possible form worthless. Would NARIC approve of a geography qualification that ticked all of their boxes but that taught flat-earthism?

The same point must be made about schools. In the UK, you have to get your child educated. The normal method is to send a child to school. Schools that follow this ACE curriculum may tick all the boxes for child welfare, discipline and so on, but the content of what they teach should lead us to ask whether sending a child to such a school satisfies the legal requirement to educate children.

It would be nice to see some gutsy response from our politicians. Will the Secretary of State for Schools and his shadows now stand up and say, in no uncertain terms, both that NARIC needs to change and that scientific illiteracy is not acceptable in schools? (NARIC appears to be funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, but it is in schools that the real danger lies.)

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