Thursday, 16 February 2012

Grit, Minister for Grit School, in Grit Land

People of England, I have decided something important.

I shall become Minister for Grit School.

Yes! It is time. I am called to power. Soon, I shall wield swords of truth and righteousness and gallop about in proper shining armour.

I am led to this destiny by your own Nick Gibb. (Minister for Schools, if you forgot.) He is my mentor and, by his brief appearance in Hong Kong this week, has taught me much.

The lessons I take from Nick (I think I can call him that) are as follows:

1. Know your job.
Obviously, if someone comes to Grit's house and says Hey Grit! You are a great Minister for Grit School! Can you promote British schools abroad? I would do a proper job. I would answer, British schooling system? It is THE BEST IN THE WORLD.

It has to be, right? It's a free-flowing system that means people like home educators can decide when to join in, and when to piss off. Okay, it could do with some tweaks, but basically it lets us all muddle along together to produce reasonably open-minded kids who are doctors, lawyers, artists, and office managers! How cool is that? Schools and parents in partnership!

What I wouldn't say, EVER, if I was a proper minister, is that British schools are CRAP. Nor that we are falling behind; being 'out educated'; or that we must follow Chinese schools for our business and economics lessons to get us proper jobs in finance.

I know how you can yell these things in England, sure! You have to! You have an electorate to hoodwink. But I would not say these things overseas! Especially not while under the banner of the British Council, cultural wing of the Foreign Office, whose job it is to big up British education and entice those rich foreign students back to the needy shores of Blighty!

So I would be better than Nick. I would be polite, visit the schools, eat the nibbles (without spitting out the peanut husks), and I would say 'Britain and Hong Kong? We are ONE.' (With all due respect to China, obviously).

2. Learn some facts.
Of course I wasn't invited to Nick's reception last night! The British Council don't let in people like scrubby-grubby Grit to touch the cloth of your most important Ministers! I merely hear about the shindig!

But Nick still teaches me wisdom. He teaches me to make sure, as Minister, you know all the facts and figures. This means I would not sit like a goldfish without oxygen while a member of the team leaps in to cover my ignorance about student numbers in higher education. Honestly! We don't want the Redwood and Welsh national anthem scenario all over again, do we?

3. Show some cleavage.
As I see it, the problem with Ministers for Schools generally is that they do not exude enough sexual suggestion.

I would rectify that. I would put on some sexy heels, pull the skirt up a bit, show a little cleavage, walk a bit wobbly, and go all giggly on the arm of my counterpart, the Hong Kong Minister for Schools. I think the evening would go a little better after that. Just my suggestion.

4. Listen.
I can see how any minister could be star struck by the size of Hong Kong's exam results.

But if they could start listening to the way Hong Kong schools reforms are going, they might, instead of bleating on and on about scores, tables, testing, accountability, show more careful attention, and develop an ear for some tentative ideas about the need for creativity now swilling about in Hong Kong educational circles.

Any listening minister might then understand how the Hong Konkers are aware that their system is generally perceived to be all rote-learning and miserable; maybe even how they might be seeking to do something about it. Perhaps Hong Kong education officials are a mite stung by the criticism that Hong Kong kids have enormous grades but zero personality? (And that observation comes from Singaporeans, for goodness sake!)

5. Say thank you.
So, in the unlikely circumstance that I have put up a crap performance, dissed British schools, banged on and on about how crap we are in the exam tables, ignored the damage limitation that has gone into overdrive, and pissed everyone off. What would I do?

I would quietly acknowledge a few shortcomings, and I would be grateful. I might even say thank you. I wouldn't call for heads to roll. I wouldn't blame everyone else. I wouldn't strut around like a self-important tosser.

6. Raise my profile.
This is a lesson I'm taking from all Ministers, everywhere.

I would be really, really, disappointed if I came all the way to Hong Kong and no journalist gave a toss! Even The Telegraph can't be arsed!

I would want all you people in England to be at home admiring me, and maybe even talking about me as a successor to my boss!

Surely I must acquire some column inches somewhere with my education programme! Surely I can do something positive for that?

I know! I shall run my first press conference! As Grit, Minister for Grit School in Grit Land!

But first I must finish off the Jack Daniels, call the British school system a load of crap run by a bunch of ponces, say that all poxy teachers should be accountable to parents (when really I mean the government), then fall down the stairs by accident-on-purpose to qualify for a free helicopter ride round the harbour.

PS. If you want newspaper and student views of the UK and HK Higher Education systems, go here and here. The SCMP couldn't be arsed.