Sunday, October 26, 2008

Old Friends News

Grandstanding... and worse

Various snippets concerning some of BOM's oldest friends:

1. Davos Egofest

One of our very first posts was on Davos, the annual bunfight where Wall Street superstars and Russian oligarchs buy our enthralled rulers.

The World Economic Forum was originally set up to debate Big Issues facing the global economy, but it long ago turned into a celeb hobnobbing opportunity where Bondian baddies corrupt the world's venal politicos.

Now, Klaus Schwab, head of bunfight organiser the WEF, admits it's all got horribly out of hand:

"The partying crept in. We let it get out of control, and attention was taken away from the speed and complexity of how the world's challenges built up.

We catered to what the financial leaders wanted: solo speaking slots, luxury hotels and VIP treatment we wouldn't afford anyone else. We gave them a soapbox. It was all political. We try to minimize the politics, but can't."

Value to voting taxpayers? Minus several trillion dollars.

(And here's a particularly teeth grinding account of that revolting corruption in the Greek sunshine).

2. Dumbed Down Exams

"A GCSE examination taken by thousands of students was deliberately dumbed down to make it easier to pass, examiners have admitted.

The Assessment and Qualifications Alliance - Britain's biggest exam board - said it lowered grade boundaries in science tests to make papers less demanding than previous years. In an extraordinary admission, officials insisted they had been forced into the move "under pressure" from the Government's exam regulator.

According to the Times Educational Supplement, they failed to come to an agreement over the mark needed to get a C - officially a good pass - in science. One of AQA's rival exam boards awarded C grades in one paper to pupils getting just 20 per cent of questions correct.

On August 7 - just two weeks before results were published - Ofqual wrote to the AQA ordering them to reduce its own grade boundaries to "bring it into line" with other boards." (Telegraph).

We all know exams have got much easier - eg see this blog on how A Levels are two whole grades easier. But this is the first time we've found a smoking gun.

3 More British Council Fantasy

David Blackie has blogged the lastest outrage from £0.5bn pa quango the British Council. Last year the BC attempted to justify its cost by arguing that "education exports" were worth a staggering £28bn pa, far outstripping other industries like automotive and even financial services.

But of course it was complete twaddle, as David describes in detail. In reality, overseas student numbers are way below the BC's ludicrous projections, and are now set to slump in the recession.

George, take another note: scrap the British Council and save another £0.5bn.

If you're still there, that is.

4. Recent Bonfires

We stopped doing our weekly Recent Bonfires round-up because it got too depressing (see complete back catalogue here). But the good news is that the Sunday Telegraph now does a Weekly Waste Watch, rounding up some of the more egregious example of government waste.

Their latest brings news of Labour-run Leicester City Council spending "£7,000 sending its leader, chief executive and two other councillors on a 10,700-mile round trip to Nicaragua and Guatemala to advise local projects about renewable energy", £3m spent by Poole and Bournemouth councils on consultants for local schools, and £10 grand spent by Edinburgh Council "on a consultants' report into relocating a war memorial to make way for a new tram scheme, only to abandon the plans amid an outcry".

Keep up the good work S Telegraph.


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