Re-Inventing the Wheel – Badly

If there is money to be made in education, it is certainly not from working in a school. Now that Building Schools for the Future has been binned, the best way is probably publishing materials for new courses.

Judging by the material we have had inflicted on us for the new BTEC science course, the production costs must be very low. They have taken some traditional experiments, made some totally pointless changes and repackaged them as something new.

Example: a common way to show that different materials conduct heat at different rates is to take rods of different materials (but the same dimensions) stick a pin on to the end of each with wax and place the other ends into a bunsen flame or onto a hot plate. These people have decided to replace the pin-&-wax with damp cobalt chloride papers – which apparantly have to be handled with forceps due to the toxicity of cobalt chloride.

This is perhaps a minor irritation but worse is the fact that the writing of the technician sheets and student worksheets appears to have been subcontracted to different people who evidently never bothered talking to each other. How else do you explain the fact that the technician sheet for one experiment specifies metal samples, wires batteries and bulbs to test for conductivity (with them so far), water to test for solubility (eh?) and a water bath set at 80 celcius to determine melting point (WTF?).

Further investigation shows that this sheet has conflated bits from three different experiments (none with the same number as the technician sheet) and was clearly written by someone with no knowledge of science otherwise they would have realised what bollocks they were producing. So that’s stage 1 of the process. Stage 2 is clearly gather in the first drafts and send them straight to the printer without proof-reading. Stage 3 is sell the final product to schools for a ridiculous amount of money.

You might think that the Science Department heads who have bought this crap might notice and I would agree with you but the trouble is, new courses are being rushed in so quickly that there is not the time. If the Government is serious about saving money, they could start by cutting crap like this.

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2 Responses to “Re-Inventing the Wheel – Badly”

  1. IanH Says:

    I’m not teaching BTec (thankfully) but have to agree with the fairly poor quality of the materials available. Last summer my school had a presentation from one of the AQA minions and she was fairly hopeless. When we pointed out some of the (fairly large) shortcomings her only response was: “That’s a good point.”

    My last blog post (teachingofscience.wordpress.com) suggested that instead of dumping groups like QCDA, perhaps we should scrap the three separate exam boards and get one proper syllabus sorted instead.

    But then I’m a naive optimist. Why else would I work in education?

  2. olandothers Says:

    Its not just BTec
    I have recently completed a City and Guilds Course (2330 level 2 and 3)
    After this you can undertake electrical work in homes, offices, factories etc (like part P qualifications but much more in-depth) and certify your own work – no building control
    The course notes that the college had bought in were full of errors and out of date with regards to changes in legislation.
    Fortunately in the 3rd year we had a lecturer who actually read the notes that he handed out and we spent the beginning of each lesson correcting the errors in the papers or playing “spot the stupid mistake”

    On a slightly different note
    The qualification requires you to pass every module
    However, the theory part (cable size calculation, earth loop values etc) was bundled together with health and safety!
    You could pass this (multiple choice) part of the exam by knowing none of the theory and guessing 25% right (multi choice now has only 4 answers) and knowing about the colour of safety signage and other H&E questions
    To be fair, there is also a written part to the exam but that also covers the whole course.

    No-one wants to see people study for 3yrs (part time )and fail the exams but the structure should (and pretends to) require a complete knowledge of all the required parts of the course.

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