Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Satisfactory is..?

"Satisfactory is not good enough." This is a direct quite from Ed Balls, the Secretary of State for (amongst other things) Education, on today's Today programme (0733 item). On the other hand we have:
satisfactory a. causing satisfaction (to), meeting expectation or need, good enough, adequate. (OED)
In other words, the man Balls doesn't understand the language he speaks, which is scary considering his role.

Further on in the interview he says 75% of schools are good or outstanding, so the remaining 25% are either satisfactory or worse. How can this be the case? Surely satisfactory is the median rating, but here we have more than half rated better than the median, which is contradictory.

Of course this isn't surprising, grade inflation is widespread in the current education system, and this is exactly what we have here. If schools rated satisfactory are actually not satisfactory at all, then the grade has clearly been inflated, so the problem is with the assessment process.

So why isn't the Secretary of State coming on air to say how he is sorting this out? Well the obvious answer to that is that he doesn't understand the concept of grade inflation, he clearly can't recognise it even when his own words directly imply it. And the worrying thing about that, is that it further means Balls is never going to sort out the bigger problem of grade inflation in the exam system.

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