75% of the adult working population can’t add up, and guess whose fault it is?

Last week saw another example of an attempt to mire education in an unhelpful debate about ideology (see Ian’s previous post for another).

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) last week released a report on adult literacy and numeracy which claims that three quarters (that’s 75% for the seven and a half out of ten of you that couldn’t work that out) of adults of working age in the UK don’t have sufficient functional numeracy skills to get a good pass at GCSE.

Edward Leigh had put the deficiencies in basic skills among the adult population down to the ‘progressive’ education of the 1960s and seems to believe little has changed as he was quoted by the BBC saying:

“It’s down to teaching. As a country, we’ve got to accept that since the 1960s we have performed woefully in international league tables…We’ve got to accept there’s something wrong with our teaching.”

Heartening then to see Barry Sheerman’s subsequent attack criticising the use of  ‘thin’ evidence to make ‘wild accusations’.

Seeking to raise levels of attainment in literacy and numeracy is welcome, and the PAC clearly has a duty to investigate the issue. However, associating percieved failures of progressive education practice in the 60’s with modern teaching practice prevents us from moving forward with serious and honest debate.

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