A different sort of vital statistics

Posted in: Comment, New Publications

The launch of the UKSSD report, Measuring Up, was ignored by all of the news outlets I pay to read.  Even the Guardian (which I don't pay for because I can't read it anymore) didn't mention it, but I came across a fine headline with 'measuring up' in it which had an SDG-related theme:

Miss Peru contestants accuse country of not measuring up on gender violence – Beauty pageant competitors refuse to list vital statistics during live TV broadcast, instead stating figures on violence against women in Peru.

It's fantastic; do watch the video.  A pity then (about the lack of news, not Miss Peru).

There have been a couple of comments on SDG4 – quality education.  This is from my colleague, Morgan Phillips:

"The prognosis isn't great, which isn't terribly surprising. The UKSSD say thisWhile there's an enormous amount to celebrate, the most vulnerable people and places in our society are increasingly being left behind. Economic inequality rumbles on and on, especially here in the UK.  You can download the report in chapters, or in its entirety.  So far, I've read Chapter 4, 'Quality education.'

Here's what I found: 

Putting aside the key flaw of the SDGs for a minute, it is hard to disagree with this statement: SDG4 has a crucial role in promoting the achievement of the full spectrum of SDGs, enabling UK learners of all ages to take informed decisions and responsible actions and create sustainable societies now and for the future. (p. 5)  Given this, it is interesting how performance against measures used by OFSTED, PISA, PIRLS etc., are being using to determine whether children are offered a quality education.  Many schools are doing well according to OFSTED and faring pretty well according to PISA etc, etc., all of which means the UK is scoring amber (defined as: some progress or aspect of the targets met) on target 4.1. The report says very positive sounding things like: ‘The vast majority of school-age children in the UK are offered an appropriate quality education', so I guess we'll get the green light soon, which will please the Rt. Hon. Damien Hinds MP.  This is all great if you are happy with how OFSTED et al define an 'appropriate quality education'; progress is being made, current policy trajectory: A OK.

But.... to the achievement of whose goals is this ‘quality education’ appropriate?  The goals of the sustainablityists? Or, the goals of the free market economists? I’d suggest the latter hold greater sway in the design of OFSTED testing, PISA, PIRLS and all the rest.  Of course the UN (and no doubt the UKSSD too) will say that free market economics, consumer capitalism and the SDGs are all mutually compatible. This is the story that is being told through the SDGs. This is the paradigm we’re stuck in; it feels increasingly like Stockholm syndrome."

But where, I wonder, in all this are the alternative PISA / PIRL measures?  Where is the alternative OECD – let's call it the DCEO: Democratic Centred Educational Design.  Who is developing this?


Posted in: Comment, New Publications


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  • Creating an alternative measure would be the easy bit, developing the requisite infrastructure needed to do the measuring and monitoring is a wholly different proposition. If schools aren't measuring 'ecological intelligence' then the dataset doesn't really exist. FEE, if it was so minded, could be measuring ecological intelligence through its Eco-Schools programme, which would be a start (although the dataset would still be very small and selective). FEE doesn't seem to have an appetite for doing this in any meaningful way, which is a whole other (not unrelated) story. National Governments do have the means to nurture and then measure ecological intelligence, the SDGs should be incentivising them to do this, currently they're not; not as far as I can tell.