There is one word that has really damaged education over the last few years. You might think that “rigour” is what I’m talking about, after all no one really understands what it is and can define it. But no, I think it is the word “equivalent”.
I see it all the time. There is a music business course being advertised at the moment which is “equivalent to a degree”. There are courses being advertised leading to vocational qualifications which are “equivalent to 3 A levels”. It is a word which is so misused and so misunderstood that we are currently butchering about in the school league tables like Sweeney Todd on the piss. Equivalent has ruined it for everybody.
In the world of business there is a clear understanding of words like “price”, “value”, worth” and “cost”. We know that a Mars bar is a certain price in a shop, but a different price in a supermarket and a different price to the retailer who bought a big box of them from the cash-and-carry. We also know that when you really, really want one you might be happy to pay twice the normal price for it. This is basic economics and its understood and accepted. What is also clear is that Mars Bars have a very close competitor at Lidl that looks the same and tastes the same but is cheaper and called something else. This product is an “equivalent”. It looks like a Mars Bar, tastes like a Mars Bar and quacks like a Mars Bar. Equivalent.
Not so straightforward in education. Is a Media Degree equivalent to a Politics degree? Are 3 Alevels equivalent to an apprenticeship? Is 1 GCSE in Maths equivalent to a Vocational qualification in carpentry? When you are building a house, of course, a carpentry qualification is far more valuable than a politics degree. So does that make them equivalent, or is it that we just don’t understand ”price”, “value”, worth” and “cost”? I don’t think the answer is to get rid of everything because we cant express it as an equivalent of something else.
In English secondary schools at the moment, they are defining equivalent in terms of “Headline Measures” where large qualifications which might take days and years to complete are only valued as “1″ because the equivalence can’t be defined.
To me it seems straightforward. Vocational qualifications are as valuable as academic ones. It is worth getting this qualification, it will benefit you in your career. The price of studying this subject is you will have less time to study that subject. Let’s stop talking about equivalent and start talking about value.