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Johnian magazine issue 45

Letters – what you’re saying

2 min read

Is the answer simple?

In response to Mark Constable’s letter on page 5 of Johnian issue 44 – which, in turn, is in response to John Myers’ article on pages 8–11 of Johnian issue 43.

I enjoyed Mark’s letter. Of course, it is impossible to fit a full analysis of the housing crisis in a thousand words. He might like all the research we have published on our website – including that the average house in 1940 was cheaper than the average house in 1340, after adjusting for general inflation. Since then house prices have increased eightfold.

We are delighted to support more social housing. The only certain things are that we have been getting worse and worse at housing for many decades and that the political challenges will not disappear. The question is not whether but how to overcome the political obstacles. That will take fresh ideas.
John Myers (1991)

More than league tables

In response to Martyn Barrett’s article on pages 8–11 of Johnian issue 44.

I read with interest the interview with Martyn, in which he describes his work developing ‘global competence’ as part of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). The results, which should shed light on the capacity of a country’s youth to think critically, and to appreciate and respect difference, are no doubt keenly awaited by many observers of our increasingly polarised world.

Through my work at the Open Society Foundations, a global philanthropy that promotes good governance and democratic practice, I have seen first-hand what happens when these global competency attributes are diminished and when education itself is manipulated. In Hungary, for example, schools are now teaching a sanitised history of World War II while the country’s government forces out individuals and institutions who promote freedom of thought and expression.

But there are risks with the global competence score – many of the same risks that run through the PISA tests overall. Standardised testing presents a very narrow picture of a country’s education system and possibly an even narrower picture of its global competence. And there is a clear Western bias in how global competence is defined: what happens if a healthy democracy in the global south ranks low in global competence scores and suffers as a result? Efforts to encourage responsible, critical and open-minded young citizens should be commended. To do so, however, we will need more than league tables.
Eleanor Kelly (2007)

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