Abhijit Pandya, Daily Mail (London), September 27, 2011
Most parents are terrified about which school their child will end up in. And they have good reason to be.
According to recent OECD research into student skills, Britain was eighth of all countries globally in mathematics and seventh in literacy in 2000.
After a decade of billions spent by Labour on education the UK has miraculously dropped to 24th in the maths rankings and 17th in the literacy rankings.
There is a critically important, much over-looked, factor playing a not so subtle role in declining standards: Mass unselective immigration.
It is trite and obvious to say that for the bulk of people in this country it was their parents that taught them basic reading, writing and numerical literacy. It is also likely that for the better performers this support was given from early childhood well into the teenage years. However, this may not be the case for children of immigrants from developing countries.
Migration figures support the fact that there are significant numbers of new arrivals from countries that have very poor numerical and verbal literacy rates. Many of the states of origin of new migrants have no system of cohesive curricula and very few schools that actually function effectively.
Thus there are a bulk of children in the UK today that can get very little early direction towards, both numerical and verbal, literacy from their parents. The burden of educating these folk now falls squarely and unfairly on British tax-payers, at the expense of their own children that continue to be squeezed out from schools, particularly those surrounding inner city migrant ghettos.
According to the Office of National Statistics, between the years 2000 and 2009 there were over 250,000 migrants into the UK from the African continent, where illiteracy is rife. To take a further example, by 2001 between 45,000 and 95,000 Somalis had arrived in Britain from a country where less than four tenths of people are literate. Hence, roughly, 18,000 Somalis would have needed tax-payers money thrown at them to be able to read and write.
This costly assistance would apply not just in teaching them English, but also if any improvement had to be made in using their own language. Whether many of them can speak English is, shockingly, unknown. This is primarily because speaking decent English is, unbelievably, not a requirement for gaining entry into the UK.
Our current weak school system is unable to adequately deal with the literacy gap that is posed by many children of migrants from low literacy nations. This forms an unnecessary economic burden that has to be remedied by our increasingly overburdened failing school system with its myriad of claustrophobic class-rooms shoved to the brim with migrant off-spring.
It is not, however, unsurprising that many migrants do not, after several years in the UK, speak more than a few words of English. Considering the unjustifiable thousands of pounds that continue to be thrown on translators for local authority literature and endless interpreters for legal processes, there is little incentive to do so.
The coalition has done nothing to encourage the learning of English by curbing back translations and interpreters. If we can’t help the parents to learn our language, there is probably very little we can do to inspire their children. Our own children suffer when they learn to communicate socially with those with lesser language skills, a point colourfully made by the eminent historian David Starkey when being interviewed about the recent London riots.
How can the children of migrants learn English when their parents cannot speak it? How can they be expected to be any good at maths when their parents cannot write? This could be avoided if immigration is made to be more selective by assessing the quality of applicant’s literacy. The immigration system could simply preclude huge numbers from those states with the worst literacy rankings. Alternatively ask migrants to pay to sit a literacy test before entry. This could also work as a money-spinner for the Treasury.
What the significant amount of illiteracy in the third-world does to our state education system, via our casual approach to immigration procedure, is revolting. It turns it into an educational charity for migrants, at the expense of the endeavouring tax-payer. The latter is often struggling to get his or her child into a decent school. This is partially because unprecedented immigrant numbers have placed significant pressure on places.
This problem is exemplified by some inner-city schools in London that are almost replete with children whose parents do not have English as their first language, and are from states of extremely low literacy. A classic example is the large Bangladeshi community in East London that stems from a country that is 162nd on the UNESCO’s world literacy rankings. The poor school performance of children of Bangladeshi migrants in the UK testifies to an arguable performance link between the source country of migrant’s children and their literacy in the UK.
Some arrivals into this country, such as those from Somalia, that can reside here through the Human Rights Act or through asylum status, do not even have had to work in the UK to get their children to benefit from Britain’s crumbling state education. Yet the continued lack of effective support towards literacy for their children, is increasing the expenditure burden for education authorities that struggle to manage numbers.
This brings to bear the obvious question of whether this is fair on those who have spent years paying taxes in Britain, that are very literate, and are unable to find suitable places for their children. It is also doubtful whether these lost opportunities for the children of the literate, endeavouring, tax-payer is good for our country as a whole.
This issue forms a tangible revenue-burden to a country that is struggling with its national debt. It undermines the long-term skill development capacity amongst prospective employees due to their weak literacy levels, as money that would have been spent on them is sapped to deal with literacy problems amongst ever increasing numbers of children of migrants. In turn, it produces a weaker quality of employee, and this is bad for national economic output.
Our declining literacy now questions whether we can continue with not distinctly assessing the literacy background of applicants for immigration. At present this open door non-discriminatory policy towards migrant literacy is just shifting the burden for dealing with global illiteracy to the British tax-payer through an unrefined immigration policy; rather than appropriately on the governments of countries where it is acute.As a result our literacy rankings will continue to be affected by an immigration system, that is already generally not only poorly thought through in design, but is also a complete shambles in execution.