Patten in favour of Japanese work ethic

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Indy Politics
JOHN PATTEN, Secretary of State for Education, who writes for Conservatives about the fear of Hell and damnation, today takes socialist readers to task for their fear of the 's- word': specialisation.

In an article for the left-wing weekly New Statesman and Society, which will be closely scanned for hints about the direction of his Education White Paper due to be published this month, Mr Patten looks to a Japanese-style classroom work ethic and attacks Labour's 'lusting after uniformity'.

Higher expectations by teachers and parents would benefit less- able pupils, he says. Schools, meanwhile, should specialise in anything from music to bilingually taught technology.

Three months ago, Mr Patten, a Roman Catholic, blamed lessening expectations of eternal damnation for Britain's rising crime rate when he told readers of the Spectator - at the other end of the political spectrum - that 'the loss of that fear has meant a critical motive has been lost to young people when they decide whether to try to be good citizens or criminals'. He urged the churches to play a stronger role in 'beginning the long march back to personal morality'.

What the adherents of the comprehensive faith regard as the old heresy of academic selection is transfigured in Mr Patten's sermon into 'specialisation'. Underpinned by the national curriculum, and encouraged by regular testing, specialisation will help many pupils, he argues. Some schools will fall by the wayside, he admits, but others will flourish by specialising as more than 'mere exotic educational boutiques'.

He quotes approvingly from a report on Japanese education, soon to be published by HM Inspectorate, which notes that parents and teachers did not admit the possibility that all children would be unable to master the curriculum followed by all but a very small proportion of pupils with special needs.