Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator's Notes

Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator's Notes

Article excerpt

Perhaps it will take allegations of ball-tampering to focus on the role of Pakistan in modern British life. There is a certain sort of upholder of national sovereignty who thinks that ethnic and religious problems can be solved if only the national borders are shaped to reflect the divisions. The British partition of India surely proves that life is not so simple, and we are now paying for our mistake. Partition created a confessional state, and gave that state a motive for acquiring a nuclear bomb, the only Muslim Bomb until we allow Iran to get there. Thus armed with righteousness and with actual kit, the state persecutes its small remaining minorities (mainly Christians) and helps foment trouble elsewhere. The Pakistani intelligence services backed the Taleban in Afghanistan and, despite President Musharraf 's robust declarations of support for Western allies, his country's attitude to everything to do with terrorism is at best ambiguous. Because of Britain's history, most of our Muslims come from Pakistan, and so we have become the prime field in Europe for their sometimes fanatical religious groupings. The latest to attract attention is Tablighi Jamaat (which means proselytising group). They run courses in Pakistan at which, it is alleged, terrorists have been recruited. Some of the 7 July bombers were members, and so are some of those detained in the recent swoops. Tablighi Jamaat wants to build a mosque in East London which could accommodate what is variously claimed to be 4,000 or 10,000 people as part of an 'Islamic village' in time for the London Olympics. Ken Livingstone thinks it is a wonderful idea, yet Tablighi Jamaat operates in conditions of almost total secrecy. It would be a grim revenge for the Raj if an Islamist cantonment were permitted to set up in our capital.

Last week, A Levels; this week, GCSEs. I notice that any news report of the subject has been bullied into rhetorical submission and so refers to those who say that standards have fallen as 'harrumphing' or 'ritual carping'.

As the father of two children getting results this week, I do see that it is galling to be told that your successes, which may well be genuine, are unreal. But the system no longer gives you reliable information. That the exams have got easier has been established by a study conducted last year by the Curriculum, Evaluation and Management Centre at the University of Durham. Although all such suggestions are described by the Education Secretary, Alan Johnson, as '100 per cent hogwash', his department does, in fact, admit that literacy and numeracy are not all that they should be, and is attempting to change what is tested accordingly. The problem, though, is succinctly expressed by the think-tank Reform, which pointed out last week that the grade inflation dates from the time (1988) when the department itself took over responsibility for regulating exams: 'Standards were bound to be undermined when the department and its agencies were responsible both for regulating exams and for increasing the numbers of students who pass them.' So long as this continues, it is certain that pass rates will improve, because no politician will wish to preside over a year in which they fall.

By what was probably a coincidence, a news page of the Times this week ran, side by side, stories about how schools need more men to teach in them and how the Conservative party needs more women candidates. …

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