Accelerated Christian Education Validated by UK Government Agency

This is the most important blog post I’ve written yet. It’s not as populist as the Top 5 posts, but please read it, comment, tweet, share on reddit and reblog. This is a crucial news story and it needs to get out there.

Earlier this year, Naric, a UK government agency, recognised the International Certificate of Christian Education (ICCE) as comparable to Cambridge International A-Level standard. This is a travesty, and not just because of Creationism. ICCE is the certificate students get for completing the fundamentalist curriculum Accelerated Christian Education.

If I were to make a list of the problems with Accelerated Christian Education, the Creationism, and associated lies taught as fact, would come third or even fourth.

Number 1 would be the tendency for these schools to indulge in physical abuse of children.

Number 2 is how destructive it is educationally. I write so much about ACE’s Creationism mostly because it’s popular – my two posts on lies taught by ACE account for almost 50% of this blog’s traffic. I really need the public to be on side if we’re going to beat this. But I can’t get the public to engage with the real problem, because the real problem is education. Most people find education boring, and laughing at Creationism interesting.

Well, you should care. And I’m going to show you why.

The first time Naric made this frankly ludicrous judgement was in 2008. I brought it to public attention in 2009, and Naric’s defence was that they didn’t look at curriculum content, only academic rigour. This is a stupid argument (and their spokesman later backpedalled in a phone call with me). But OK Naric, let’s accept your position. You’re saying that ACE School of Tomorrow materials are as academically rigorous as CIE A-levels, ignoring the content.

This is simply false. Since I can’t get anyone to care about this when I discuss it in depth, here’s a bullet point list of reasons why:

  • ACE PACE tests are laughably easy.
  • Students know in advance what the questions will be on the tests.
  • Tests consist solely of short answer or multiple-choice questions.
  • This makes it possible to learn all the answers by rote, or “parrot fashion.”
  • Some questions in the tests aren’t even relevant to the subject.

OK, so one at a time then:

1. Tests are laughably easy.

Here are some genuine example questions from ACE’s 9th grade tests (that’s Year 10, British readers – GCSE level). These are from the PACEs I bought earlier this month.

World History

“The two events which are the focal points of world history are the _____________ Advents of Jesus Christ.” a. First and Second  b. Second and Fourth   c. Seventh and Eighth

“The very next event on God’s calendar is the __________ Coming of Jesus Christ.” a. First  b. Second  c. Sixth

“The leader of the Katanga Province was _________________.” a. Patrick Henry  b. Mohammed Ali  c. Moise Tshombe

Sir Edmund Hillary and Tensing Morkay were the first two men to climb Mount_________ a. Everest  b. Lemmon  c. McKinley.

True or False: Moses was given God’s Law on Mt. Sanai.

Egypt is located on the continent of ____________.

New Testament Survey

True or false: The angel that announced both the birth of John and Jesus was Gabriel.

True or false: The inspiration of Scripture does not destroy the individuality of the writer.

Mark wrote his Gospel primarily to the ____________ in Rome.

Biology

__________________ formulated the theory of evolution A. Gregor Mendel  B. Adolf Hitler   C. Charles Darwin  D. Charles Mendel

__________________ is the study of inherited characteristics. A. Embryology   B. Genetics  C. Cytology  D. Biology

Does it get harder higher up the grades? Here are some questions from a 12th grade (Year 13, Upper Sixth UK) Economics test:

_______________ is the excess of total revenue over total cost.

Our _____________ are limited, but our wants are unlimited.

When demand is greater than supply, prices are usually _________ than when the reverse is true.

______________ is a single business that is the only source for a good or service. A. Monopoly, B. Trust, C. Entrepreneur, D. Competition.

Yes, Naric. I can smell the academic rigour from here.

2. Students Know In Advance What the Questions Will Be

A PACE is broken up in sections. After each section there is a review, called a Checkup. There are two or three Checkups per PACE. After this, there is a Self-Test, a mock test, during which students are not supposed to look back in the PACE for answers. After completing all this (each PACE is typically about 40 pages), they are tested.

Every test consists solely of questions from the Self-Test and Checkups. The majority of the questions are from the Self-Test – generally revising only the Self-Test is good enough to pass comfortably. The questions might be slightly modified in the test – they might be multiple choice rather than fill-in-the-blank, or you might have to select the correct definition from a list. But the questions themselves are unchanged, even in wording.

3. Tests consist of short answer questions

This is so important: Children get their concept of what learning should be from the way they are taught. If you only teach children facts, they believe that learning is about facts. If you only teach them memorisation, they think learning is memorisation. What you teach children is your message to them about what is to be valued in life.

Short answer questions can only ever teach independent facts. You can’t cover concepts, ideas, evaluation, opinions, or higher-order thinking with this means of testing. So children don’t learn those skills, and they don’t think they are valuable.

4. It’s possible to learn everything by rote

Here’s the second important thing about children: They are master strategists. Children will work in whatever way gets the best results. The best strategy for passing ACE tests is to memorise, verbatim, the sentences that will appear on the test, rush to the testing table, and scribble them all down. This is more effective than learning deeply, with an understanding of meaning and concepts, because if you don’t write down precisely the wording ACE expects, you won’t get the marks. In ACE, the student who takes a surface learning approach will score more highly than one who learns deeply.

Why is this a problem? Because learning by rote does not provide any evidence of understanding.

Here’s another Year 10 Biology question: “The term genetic ______ refers to the total number of defective genes in a population.” Let’s say the student memorises this word, ready to pop it in on the test. Do they know what it means? The assessment doesn’t give any evidence either way. They might understand, but without asking them to apply it in another context, there’s no way of knowing.

Here’s what I mean. Read this sentence out loud five times or until you have memorised it.

“The epistemology of praxis recapitulates the fantasy of linguistic transparency.”

Do you understand it? Well, if this were an ACE test, they would simply remove a word at random. If you put the correct word on the line, you’d get the mark.

This is an utterly meaningless method of assessment.

5. Some questions on the test aren’t even relevant to the subject.

I once scored a low B grade on an ACE English test. When I got my result, I was surprised, because I felt sure I’d known the right answers. It turned out I was right. I had scored 100% on the English questions. Unfortunately, the same test also contained some questions on ACE’s religious views, from the PACE’s accompanying Wisdom Pack. I had got most of those wrong, and my grade suffered as a result. In one test I took, memorising a Bible verse accounted for 10% of the overall mark. In almost all PACE tests, regardless of subject, Scripture memorisation counts for 2-5%. Which, when the pass mark is 80%, is significant.

Here are some examples from other subjects:

Love is not an _____________________ but a conscious ________________. From a Biology test.

True or false: Our peace – as Christians – is in Jesus Christ. From a History test.

Where can we find the answers to moral questions? _______ Biology again. The correct answer is “We can find the answers to moral questions in the Bible.” Any other answer would not score a mark.

So when an employer, or university, looks at the ACE student’s results and sees a middling grade in a subject, how can she know whether the student is superb at the subject but rubbish at answering ACE’s questions on morality, or vice versa, or mediocre at both?

So that’s it. Entirely ignoring curriculum content, a government agency has titanically screwed up. They have endorsed a worthless curriculum, which casts doubt on their credibility as an organisation. This means that students who are not suited to higher education could get places at universities in preference to students who received a better education, on the basis of Naric’s inaccurate recommendation.

This is a scandal and I will not shut up about it. Nor should you. Write to your MP and complain. Write to Naric and complain. Write to David Willetts MP, the minister responsible at the Department for Business, Information, and Skills, which awards ECCTIS Ltd the contract for Naric in the UK. Please forward this to everyone who you think might care. Especially if they’re at all influential.

Related Posts:

Note: If you follow the link to the Naric story, you’ll see they say (I can’t check word-for-word because the page is down at the time of writing; I hope it will be up when you read this) that they do not recognise the ACE materials in isolation, but rather the ICCE as a whole. This is a false dichotomy. ACE materials account for, at a minimum, 80% of the ICCE. If the ACE materials are worthless, and I think I’ve demonstrated that they are, the whole qualification is invalidated.

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