Grading effort or knowledge?

Daily Mail:

When Aleksander Kucharski arrived in Britain from Poland, he expected he would get a first-class education.

He was accepted at a Roman Catholic state school which boasts one of the best academic records in the country and is recognised by Ofsted as outstanding.

But after two years he is so disillusioned that he has gone home to his old school, saying his British classmates were interested only in shopping and partying.

"I was treading water within the British education system," said 16-year-old Aleksander.

"The boys were childish, they didn't read papers and weren't interested in anything.

"And the girls only talked about shopping and what they were going to do on Friday night.

"In Poland you have to know the names of all countries, even the rivers. But in England hardly anyone could place Kenya or Poland on the map. The teachers didn't test knowledge, only effort."

Aleksander started at St Thomas More High School in North Shields, North Tyneside, after his parents, who are both doctors, came to England.

In June he informed his mother Anja, a psychiatrist, and father Robert, a medical consultant, that he was returning home to continue his schooling.


Many of the public schools in this country suffer from the same malady. Three of my grand kids are now in a private school in San Antonio and the differences are remarkable. The oldest is having to make the biggest adjustment, because he had never been required to memorize such basic items as the multiplication tables. Now all three are memorizing poetry, songs and skills needed for future learning. Parents owe it to their children to find out whether they are being graded on effort or knowledge. If it is the former it may just be giving them some misplaced self esteem.

BTW, the Poles accomplished "one of the most remarkable mathematical exercises known to history," according to military historian John Keegan in his terrific book, Intelligence in War. They were able to crack the German Enigma code allowing them to understand the logic of the machine using pure mathematic reasoning. It was done with pencil and paper since they did not have access to modern computers. There were other examples of Polish brain power in the book.


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