Saturday, July 16

University Entry in the UK, some demographics

Fascinating stuff.

1. youngsters from London and south-east England are more likely to gain places at England's top universities than their northern counterparts. Figures for Oxford and Cambridge show that more southerners apply and a higher proportion get places. In terms of comparable populations, three times as many places go to students from London and the South East as from the North.

2. At Oxford University more students from China gained places than from north-east England.

People might say that the universities have to be more balanced. But I love this quote from Oxford.

Oxford University has argued that it can only choose from the best candidates who apply - it can't put right the inequalities in the school system.

Absolutely. Where do you stop? Are you going to tell a firm that they have to hire more people from the North East? Or how about this? That Doctors have to treat more patients from North East than in South East. Or architects need to make more houses? Ridiculous.

Incidentally, I have studied in Manchester and at Kings College…hmmm, much to think about.

Thursday, July 14

Measuring the fog of prose

I love this. Did you know there is actually an index which measures how impenetrable is your prose? Its called as the Gunning Fog Index devised by Robert Gunning. The formula tallies the words in each sentence, and the syllables in each word and then estimates how difficult it is to read that text.

Here are examples from wikipedia: Brilliant:

Passage from the nursery rhyme Rock-a-bye Baby

The following paragraph has a Gunning Fog Index of 3.1.

Rock-a-bye baby, on the treetop.
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock.
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall.
And down will come baby, cradle and all.


  • There are 31 words in four sentences.
  • There are no complex words.
  • 0.4 ((31 / 4) + 100 (0/31))
  • 0.4 x ( 7.75 + 0)
  • Fog index = 3.1
Passage from the Wikipedia article on "logorrhoea"

The following paragraph has a Gunning Fog Index of 16.6.

The word logorrhoea is often used pejoratively to describe prose that is highly abstract and contains little concrete language. Since abstract writing is hard to visualize, it often seems as though it makes no sense and all the words are excessive. Writers in academic fields that concern themselves mostly with the abstract, such as philosophy and especially postmodernism, often fail to include extensive concrete examples of their ideas, and so a superficial examination of their work might lead one to believe that it is all nonsense.


  • There are 86 words in three sentences.
  • The 11 italic words are considered complex.
  • 0.4 ((86 / 3) + 100 (11/86))
  • 0.4 x ( 28.67 + 12.79)
  • Fog index = 16.6
Passage from the Wikipedia article on "The English Language"

The following paragraph has a Gunning Fog Index of 24.4.

As a result of the military, economic, scientific, political, and cultural influence of the United Kingdom from the 18th century, and of the United States since the mid 20th century, it has become the lingua franca in many parts of the world, and the most prominent language in international business and science. It is used extensively as a second language and as an official language in the European Union and many Commonwealth countries, as well as many international organisations.


  • There are 79 words in two sentences.
  • The 17 italic words are considered complex.
  • 0.4 ((79/2) + 100(17/79))
  • 0.4 x ( 39.5 + 12.79)
  • Fog index = 24.4
[edit]The same passage simplified

The following paragraph has a Gunning Fog Index of 7.07.

English has become the standard language around the world. This was the result of many factors. In the 1700s, the British affected English with the army, economy, science, politics and culture. In the mid-1900s, the United States caused change. It is the most used language in world business and science. It is a famous second language and an official language in most of Europe and in Commonwealth countries. It is also the case in groups around the world.


  • There are 79 words in seven sentences.
  • The 5 italic words are considered complex.
  • 0.4 ((79/7) + 100(5/79))
  • 0.4 x ( 11.28 + 2.5)
  • Fog index = 7.07


I have to admit that the first time I hit this problem of incomprehension was when i was reading epistemology during doctoral level coursework in Manchester. And you dont really have to use big words to get me seriously confused but some are really painful. I give you an example from my name sake, Roy Bhaskar.  I quote:

Indeed dialectical critical realism may be seen under the aspect of Foucauldian strategic reversal of the unholy trinity of Parmendean/Platonic/Aristotlean provenance; of the Cartesian-Lockean-Humean-Kantian paradigm, of foundationalisms (in practice, fideistic foundationalisms) and irrationalisms (in practice, capricious exercises of the will-to-power or some other ideologically and/or psycho-somatically buried source) new and old alike; of the primordial failing of western philosophy, ontological monovalence, and it's close ally, the epistemic fallacy with it's ontic dual; of the analytic problematic laid down by Plato, which Hegel served only to replicate in his actualist monovalent analytic reinstatement in transfigurative reconciling dialectical connection, while in his hubristic claims for absolute idealism he inaugurated the Comtean, Kiekegaardian and Nietszhean eclipses of reason, replicating the fundaments of positivism through its transmutation route to the superidealism of a Baudrillard. (Plato, etc. p.215)

Wednesday, July 13

Religious Education lessons at risk, say faith leaders

Eh? so? what’s the bloody problem, you muppets? Why should we teach religious education in schools in the first place? This is the letter

Losing our religions

SIR – We wish to endorse the campaign to have religious education (RE) included in the English Baccalaureate.

We are gravely concerned about the negative impact current Government policies are having on RE in schools and colleges in our country. The distinctive character of RE in Britain has an international reputation of which we are rightly proud. RE makes an important contribution to strong communities, harmony and mutual respect.

However, changes to the role and capacity of local authorities, coupled with the extension of the academies programme, are in danger of undermining the nature and quality of RE. They are also having a serious impact on the ability of the grassroot councils for RE (Sacres) to undertake their statutory role in sustaining the subject. Also, recent policy initiatives in relation to GCSE examinations are already leading to a deterioration in the provision for RE in many secondary schools.

The Prime Minister must ask the Secretary of State to work with the RE community to develop a clear strategy for the future development of the subject. Failure to work with faith communities, along with their partner academic and professional associations, would represent a serious flaw in the Big Society project.

Michael Heaney
President, Churches Together in England
Martyn Atkins
General Secretary Methodist Church
Roberta Rominger
General Secretary of the United Reformed Church
Jamie Cresswell
Chair, Network of Buddhist Organisations
Bharti Tailor
Secretary General, Hindu Forum of Britain
Harshad Sanghrajka
Director, Institute of Jainology
Farooq Murad
Secretary Gen, Muslim Council of Britain
Indarjit Singh
Director, Network of Sikh Organisations
Malcolm Deboo
President, Zoroastrian Trust Funds for Europe

Truly these religious people should concentrate on making sure that the parents teach religion to their kids. Why has the state suddenly taken on the responsibility to teach religion to the kids? Good for you, Government, tell them to bog off. No need to worry about this.

Tuesday, July 12

Rate schools on access to universities

No, lets not.

What’s this about? Well, the head of the University Admissions says that schools should be rated based upon how many pupils go on to university. I quote:

Ucas chief Mary Curnock Cook says league tables have led schools to "unduly" focus on upping GCSE results.

She argues the focus should now switch to schools' higher education success to boost the number of poor pupils in universities.

The government plans to publish data on the destination of schools leavers.

Ucas chief executive Mrs Curnock Cook said: "Schools for many years have been completely focused on getting their percentage of five good GCSEs up.

"Until the government measures and tracks the destination of school leavers into higher education I don't think it will change. I think it is almost essential.

"Higher education has become mass education and more people enter higher education today than took O-levels in the early 1980s.

"The measure of performance in schools needs to shift up in the way that achievement has."

This is frankly illiteracy. Truly mindbogglingly scary. This assumes that more students who go to college is better. But is it? You are assuming that a college career is good for everybody. But it isnt. What about vocational education? What will all these college graduates do when they come out? You are assuming that they will all have jobs. Jobs as what? white collar workers? And then you moan that manufacturing is dead. Well, higher education should be for a purpose, but this blessed lady seems to think having a college degree is good enough in its own right. Rate students from the perspective of whether or not they have learnt basic knowledge to be good citizens and then allow them various streams. And be cognisant of the fact that a majority of students do not want or need to go to college.

Secondly, this idea that poor students will automatically become rich if they go to college very problematic. Why is this? Why this disdain for vocational training? And this automatically leads to an assumption that perfectly good vocational professions such as electricians, plumbing, construction etc. is bad. Why? they are good and one can make a perfectly good career and living for it. But this forcing people into college is frankly silly.

I find this kind of thinking extraordinary.

Monday, July 11

A very amusing description of an awards dinner

Awards dinner are the bane of corporate lives. Its just a pain in the backside. And whether its journalism, arts, science, economics, finance or technology, they are just a pain. I am still not sure what’s the benefit to, well, anybody.

Here is a fascinating and very amusing description of one.

Sunday, July 10

More red tape to help remove red tape

I do not think that the irony caught these bureaucrats. The basic thing is that schools are now scared of taking the kids out on school trips because of red tape around insurance, health and safety, licences, etc. etc. So what does the government do? Provide more red tape to remove red tape. Mind boggles.

The government is publishing new guidelines for parents and teachers in England which it hopes will mean more children go on school trips.

The Department for Education has told schools and local authorities to ditch "unnecessary paperwork", and has cut its 150 pages of guidelines to eight.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said it would mean a "more common sense approach to health and safety".

And the Health and Safety Executive said it hoped to dispel legal "myths".

ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY PAGES OF GUIDELINES? good heavens. But remember, EIGHT pages of turgid prose still remains and here’s a prediction, the number of school trips are still going to fall. As if this is going to change. So what do the guidelines say?

The Department for Education says the revised guidance:

  • Summarises the legal duties of head teachers, governing bodies and local authorities on health and safety, and covers activities that take place on and off school premises
  • Makes clear that a written risk assessment does not need to be carried out every time a school takes pupils on a regular, routine local visit, for example to a swimming pool or museum
  • Tackles "myths and teachers' fears about being prosecuted" by making the law clearer
  • Clarifies that parental consent is not necessary for pupils to take part in the majority of off-site activities organised by a school, as most of these activities take place during school hours and are a normal part of a child's education.

Well, ok, sounds fair enough. What do the teachers say?

The National Union of Teachers has welcomed the move but said proper protection for staff and children should be maintained.


there you go, you can issue whatever guidelines you wish, they will not change. Unbelievable.