UK NARIC Issues Statement on Accelerated Christian Education

UK NARIC Issues Statement on Accelerated Christian Education July 9, 2012

This week’s Times Educational Supplement contains a new article on NARIC’s approval of the International Certificate of Christian Education.

Outrage as qualifications that dispute Darwinism get green light

They confidently claim that the Loch Ness monster disproves Darwinism and that there is clear proof of creationism. But that has not stopped a set of controversial Christian qualifications – used by dozens of British private schools – being described as comparable to international O and A levels.

The International Certificate of Christian Education (ICCE) has been rubber-stamped by a government agency, even though it is based on a curriculum that says the Bible is the “final authority” on scientific matters. It has prompted outrage from secular campaigners, while schools following the curriculum have come to its defence, saying that it is “academically very sound”.

I’ve already blogged about this, pointing out that NARIC’s decision contradicts the academic consensus, that it appears there may have been a conflict of interests (ICCE paid for its own benchmarking), and that the ACE curriculum which ICCE uses so extensively uses worthless assessment procedures.

In response to this, and my campaign against Accelerated Christian Education, Naric has posted a statement on its website which might as well be addressed directly to me. This is good news. Clearly the letters readers of this blog have been sending are making a difference. Keep it up. Here’s my commentary on NARIC’s statement.

UK NARIC Benchmarking Statement

In response to concerns initiated by a former pupil of an Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) school, related correspondence in the press and on social networking sites; and approaches that have been made directly to UK NARIC and to MPs, qualifications and examinations regulators, education Departments of the countries in the UK and others, UK NARIC would like to make the following statement:

Hi NARIC! Good to know you’re reading my blog. Feel free to leave a comment some time.

Four taught subjects:

In 2008, UK NARIC was commissioned to undertake a benchmarking study which examined the Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) curricula and the qualifications offered by the International Certificate of Christian Education (ICCE) taught in Mauritius. The study considered four ICCE subjects: Maths, Chemistry, English and History. Given the international focus of the awards, NARIC deemed Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) qualifications the most suitable independent benchmark for comparison (CIE were not involved in the study themselves).

Naric is saying “we examined Maths, Chemistry, English, and History” like it’s a defence. OK, the Maths curriculum is fairly ordinary (if you ignore being required to learn Bible verses in order to pass), but the History course teaches that the world was created 6,000 years ago – the first unit of world history starts with Adam and Eve. And then it teaches that the Sumerian civilisation began after Noah’s flood. And that’s without getting into the epic levels of right wing, anti-socialist propaganda that are taught as fact. Creationism is emphasised every bit as much in the chemistry syllabus as it is in biology. As for English… well, here’s a scan from one of the English units (click to enlarge).

Also, NARIC: You approved the whole qualification! So saying, “Well, we only looked at some of it,” doesn’t look like a defence. It looks like negligence.

Otherwise, so far, so identical to previous statements. In fact, this whole statement contains almost no information which was not already on NARIC’s website.

UK NARIC findings demonstrated that, despite the acknowledged differences in modes of learning, the ICCE qualifications compared broadly to CIE O and A levels with regard to their learning outcomes and knowledge competencies.

In respect of concerns at the time, UK NARIC made clear that the units examined did not include references to the Loch Ness monster or apartheid and the false claims made against UK NARIC could not be substantiated.

What false claims? NARIC’s previous statement said the same thing, word-for-word, about unsubstantiated false claims. I have never made any allegations against UK NARIC, I didn’t see any in the press coverage in the TES, Guardian, or Telegraph. All I said was that NARIC benchmarked the ICCE, and that I disagreed vehemently with their evaluation. I made a lot of claims about the ICCE, and I’m happy to back them all up.

Anyway, Naric has been made thoroughly aware of the stuff about apartheid and the Loch Ness Monster since that first evaluation.

ICCE qualifications:

In 2011, UK NARIC was approached by ICCE Ltd to review broad subject areas and learning outcomes of ICCE qualifications, not ACE curricula, exclusively, as it has been claimed. The ICCE qualifications that were examined as part of the project are baccalaureate style awards that are partly based on the ACE curriculum, but they also include compulsory assessed elements such as coursework, essay assignments and project work which are supplemental to the ACE material.  In-depth analysis of these elements formed a key part of the overall evaluation of the ICCE qualifications (see also note 1).

Note that ICCE are repeatedly referred to as “the client”, but Naric has refused to comment on the potential conflict of interests this creates.

Nobody has claimed that only the ACE curriculum was reviewed. I have claimed that the distinction between ICCE and ACE is small. And that various academics, including the Alberta Department of Education, have expressed skepticism that ACE can be brought up to scratch by bolting on a bit of extra work.

The information on just how much supplemental work students have to do for ICCE, in addition to the ACE units, is not mentioned. That’s because – proportional to the course – it’s hardly any. At the O-level equivalent General Certificate, it’s a single 1,000 word essay and one science project. At the A-level, it’s another six essays or science projects (or combinations thereof), meaning that ACE still makes up the overwhelming majority of both the lessons and the assessment.

Using UK NARIC’s methodology for benchmarking qualifications, which is founded on internationally recognised key principles of credential evaluation, the study involved analyses of the qualifications’ core components in  terms of learning outcomes, content, duration, modes of learning and assessment and quality assurance measures.  Examination of programme delivery in the UK was integral to the project, involving organised site visits to a number of schools and home-schools.  This provided an excellent opportunity both to observe the quality of delivery in the UK as well as to monitor the moderation and quality assurance procedures in place in both contexts.

The work confirmed that overall the baccalaureate-style ICCE qualifications compare well with the highly-regarded CIE qualifications. The study highlighted strengths within the ICCE programme whilst also presenting areas for improvement, whether through supplementing current course materials or considering alternative curriculum, for certain subjects.  These recommendations, along with more general suggestions for development have been communicated to ICCE as part of the project.

In particular, as part of this later study some issues were observed with the Biology programme, which were reported back to ICCE with recommendations on the redevelopment of certain aspects of the programme to ensure closer comparability with the academic level of A and O level qualifications.

And as I’ve already said, who are they kidding if they think the ICCE will listen to suggestions about changing the Biology programme? Teaching Creationism is half the reason the qualification exists.

It is important to note that the intention of this study was to examine whether the programmes are broadly comparable, whilst recognising the key differences between the awards, and not to establish direct equivalence.  As a Baccalaureate-style programme rather than single-subject qualifications, assessment provided is based on the overall level of the ICCE and not on a subject-for-subject basis.

As a commissioned report to ICCE, UK NARIC are therefore not in a position to disclose any detailed content without the client’s consent.  However, given the level of interest in the ICCE awards by universities and employers, and with permission from ICCE, an information section on the ICCE qualifications and the ACE curricula has been included in UK NARIC’s International Comparisons database, which may be accessed by registered users.

No further comments can be provided.

No further comments can be provided. And that’s what I’m complaining about. Although I understand why that’s the case, I think it’s a woeful lack of transparency. ECCTIS may be a private company, but they are providing a function of government. This is what outsourcing gets you.

One more note on NARIC’s benchmarking of ICCE. They say in their guidelines that one of the things they consider is whether the qualification is part of the national qualifications framework in the country of origin. Well, the ICCE’s country of origin is the UK (which makes it a bit strange that an international comparisons body was looking at it in the first place), and ICCE is not part of the UK NQF. Ofqual, the body responsible for recognising UK qualifications, told me they have never been approached to look at ICCE.

Keep writing to your MPs and to the Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills (the department which pays for UK NARIC). The letters are clearly making a difference. The other thing you could do is write to the admissions tutors at your university, and make them aware of ICCE.

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