We've spoken before about the problems plaguing education in the US - grade inflation; unions seeking to preserve their political power (as in, for example, California) and the jobs of their members rather than serve the interests of the student; meaningless or 'feel-good' subjects instead of serious studies; etc.
It seems the latter problem is now plaguing education in the UK as well. The Telegraph reports:
Almost nine in 10 teenagers sat qualifications in subjects such as call centre skills, cake decorating, health and safety and hazard control last year instead of conventional GCSEs, it emerged.
Official statistics show the number of 16-year-olds taking at least one alternative qualification in the final year of compulsory education has soared by around a fifth in just four years.
Some 26,670 pupils took a course in self development, while 22,885 sat a “working with others” qualification, 22,346 studied “learning skills” and 19,266 passed exams in problem solving.
Other qualifications offered in schools covered subjects such as party décor, advice skills, bookkeeping, fire prevention, make-up, pastry craft, salon reception, stonewalling and warehousing and storage.
. . .
Over the last decade, rising numbers of vocational courses have been accredited for inclusion in official school league tables as equivalent to GCSEs.
But a report last year by Alison Wolf, professor of public sector management at King's College London, claimed the system created “perverse incentives” for schools and led to pupils being pushed towards qualifications simply to boost official rankings.
The Coalition has now outlined plans to axe more than 3,000 equivalent courses from league tables by 2014.
. . .
Separate figures show that between 1998 and 2010 fewer pupils took GCSEs in core academic subjects. The proportion of school-leavers with a GCSE in geography fell from 41 per cent to 26 per cent, history dropped from 33 to 31 per cent and modern languages plummeted from more than three-quarters of pupils to just 43 per cent.
The Government has now introduced the English Baccalaureate – a school leaving certificate that rewards pupils taking GCSEs in academic disciplines. It is expected to trigger a sharp rise in entries this summer and in 2013.
But a school leader has said it is "morally wrong" to undermine teenagers' GCSE efforts with talk that the exams are too easy.
Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said pupils are working extremely hard, and should not be told that their achievements are not enough.
There's more at the link. With truly delicious irony, implying that some may not be able to actually read the article after their British education, the Telegraph also includes a gallery of images illustrating some of the 'Mickey Mouse courses'.
Do note the idiocy of Mr. Lightman's comment at the end of the article. Sure, pupils are working extremely hard - at the wrong things! All their hard work is essentially useless. It's like rowing flat-out against the tide: you won't get very far. If you use your head, and wait until the tide turns, then you'll make much better progress. However, it sounds like you won't learn that in many UK schools these days . . . or many US ones, for that matter!