Do not mention selection

There has been a startling retreat of meritocracy in Britain compared with other countries. In the past 30 years we had gone into reverse, mostly for educational reasons. Anti-selection is almost a religion in the Labour Party yet the grammar schools allowed working class children like me to reach escape velocity from the mining village where I was brought up in the 1950s. It seems impossible to have an educational debate in this country which is not insular, ignorant, class ridden, neurotic and sublimely hypocritical. Selection exists in various forms pretty much everywhere in the world. There are sophisticated systems in France and Germany, where it takes place at 14, and even those who do not make the Gymnasium can still become doctors or well-paid engineers. The Indians and the Chinese have no qualms about selecting the best suited to particular lines of study. In India vocational emphasis begins at 14, in China higher technical schools start at 15. With the talents of hundreds of millions to draw on, in time these countries will outclass us in field after field. There is a perverse social consciousness that leads the British to think it normal that the upper reaches of society should be schooled according to one theory of education while the non-affluent majority should be content to follow a manifestly inferior system. Where else in the developed world are two methods of examination developing: one (the International Baccalaureate) largely the preserve of the wealthy and the other (a trashed, home-grown system) for all the rest?

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