Judging from Scotsman letter writers (20 August) one might be forgiven for thinking Scottish education is a disaster zone, whereas a record number of Scottish pupils achieved Highers in 2015. Also, a record number of college students are completing full-time courses and last year the UK Office for National Statistics confirmed that Scotland was the best educated nation in Europe.
The primary reason for the attainment gap is down to an unequal society but the Scottish Government does not have the economic levers to seriously tackle this long-standing problem. The UK Labour and Tory parties have had generations to address inequality but have just tinkered at the edges.
The regular Labour letter writers on education, health or police face two major problems. One is that it’s invariably the case that the statistics in an SNP “crisis” are still improvements on the best Labour achieved during its eight years in control of Holyrood, despite the SNP working under far more challenging fiscal conditions.
And secondly, in the event that there should be real problems, Labour has no solution. Even if you think John Swinney is doing a poor job as finance secretary, does anyone in Scotland really think Labour’s Jackie Baillie would do a better one?
When challenged to explain how they’d fund the higher spending they propose as the magical solution to all problems, the responses of Labour’s would-be ministers lack any credibility.
The fact of the matter is that in the public perception the SNP is now the party of social justice and opposition to austerity. Labour doesn’t have a single policy to call its own, nothing it can offer that the SNP isn’t already offering with the benefit of years of experience and competence in government to back it up.
Warrender Park Road
Having attended Scottish schools between 1936 and 1949 I entirely disagree with your view (editorial, 19 August) that Scottish education had a “glorious past” but deteriorated greatly.
Our experience was mainly one of poor teaching, fear and boredom. Although I gained five Highers, most of what I learned for these was soon forgotten or, if not, of limited use in later work or personal life.
We were not encouraged to think for ourselves, question what we were told, understand emotions, be creative or helped to develop self-confidence and “people skills”.
We never even heard of economics, philosophy, psychology, anatomy or physiology, the Scottish Enlightenment, Highland Clearances, the Irish famine or the Suffragettes. There were few “extra-curricular” activities. Most pupils left school at 14 and about 5 per cent went to university. The selective academy I attended, now a comprehensive, is a far happier and more effective place, from which most go on to higher education.
Relations between pupils and teachers are cordial, courses are far broader and more relevant to current issues.
Although I have degrees from two prestigious universities I doubt that I could gain more than a C in the present Higher exams for the subjects I studied.
I have lived in several countries but never heard anyone call Scottish education the best in the world. If it was, that was only because the others were so poor.