You know that uneasy feeling you get when you read an argument that sounds coherent but just doesn't sit quite right? I had that last week when I was reading this piece in the Listener in the tea room last week.
It sounds reasonable. Makhlouf sounds like a reasonable chap, just wanting to fix our education system. The first thing that made me wonder, while I was at the table, was why do treasury think out system is broken? As far as I am aware, we have one of the best education systems in the world. Or at least in the OECD. This afternoon, I found a column by a chap called Gorden Dryden that pointed out a few more things. The comparisons to China were ... flawed at best. In the PISA comparisons used, Only two disproportionately affluent cities from China were used, combine that with China's one child policy and you end up with a very high ratio of students to teachers. So using that comparison to compare our education system for a wide variety of socioeconomic groups seems at best pointless. The PISA comparison we should be using, is against Finland - being the current all round number 1.
And the way I'm reading it, what he is suggesting is that the primary thing we should be doing is rewarding better teaching. which sounds awfully like performance based pay. Which, if Dryden is to believed (and from what little digging I've done, it seems to be true) is the complete opposite of what the Fins are doing - they've gone the route of more teachers focusing more on students needs and less on national standardized tests.
Which makes it sound rather horribly like someone from Treasury who is cherry picking their data and subverting even that cherry picked data to suggest a course of action with no foundation in reality. The evidence suggests that the best course of action is the opposite of what is being suggested. Surely you can't get to head treasury without at least a basic understanding of statistics? A blinkered view of the world at best, though it sounds horribly disingenuous.