back to article BT boss brands Britain illiterate

BT's chairman Sir Mike Rake has joined Tesco and M&S in slamming standards in British schools. Rake said the company had had to throw away a quarter of applications for apprenticeships because their applications were unusable. He said BT received 26,000 applications for just 170 apprenticeship posts. But 6,000 were useless. …


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  1. Greg J Preece

    They're not wrong.

    The level of basic comprehension of the English language is shocking. A quick trip to Facebook will confirm that. The problem is that poor English is now generally accepted. People don't seem to care if you mix up your/you're/yore or there/their/they're any more, for example. That one really does my head in - it's not as if it's difficult!

    It would be nice if that was drilled into kids in high school. Not just because I'm some traditionalist whiner, but because it does have an impact on how you are perceived. Poor English on a CV can easily cost you the opportunity at a job that you are probably perfectly capable of performing well in, because the poor spelling/grammar makes you look like a moron. Humans are fickle, simple as that.

    I await the grammar Nazis picking over this post. Never said I was perfect, just acceptable. :-p

    1. Anonymous Coward

      RE They're not wrong.

      I'll second that, I had the job of looking at some CVs the other day for a job at our place. Seriously, what a laugh. I probably rejected 70% on the basis of bad grammar. Which might sound like I'm being a complete bastard but would you employ someone who has the following on their CV...

      "Im have a good attention to detail."

      I can understand written mistakes when writing all casual like, but on your CV? When you're trying to make a point about having a good eye for detail!

      I don't think so.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      What country?

      Presumably, as you write about "high school", yours is an American perspective. Then again, phrases such as, "does my head in" outside the milieu of 13 year olds smoking something behind the bike shed?

      Actually, while English/Welsh secondary education has its failings, primary is not bad and even the results of secondary schools with whom I have dealt at work and otherwise seem, to my late middle-aged, top-mark-English-exams (in my youth), mildly multi-lingual and definitely grumpy self, far better than is credited.

      I find the galloping Americanisation is a problem: young and old seem no longer able to write or speak clearly in their own language and be unaware of semantic and syntactic differences between the languages. The BBC World Service can sound downright illiterate (for a service promoting English around the world) and London-based journalists seem to be completely disconnected from their native language and culture.

      In the circumstances, "yoof" does rather well! Just a shame it is not better read (in the traditional, cultural sense) to give it a context in time and culture. Nor do they look as fat as described and the manners are rather good (impressing even my continental friends favourably). But then, I never visit London where I gather things are different.

      1. Greg J Preece

        @AC 10:29

        "Presumably, as you write about "high school", yours is an American perspective."

        Errr...nope. I'm English, and I went to a "high school." They're quite common.,-0.791016&sspn=9.936275,28.54248&ie=UTF8&t=h&split=1&rq=1&ev=zo&hq=high+school&hnear=&ll=54.278055,-0.681152&spn=9.606298,28.54248&z=6

    3. Ben Tasker Silver badge


      When I was recruiting, I was an absolute bastard about CV's. You could have had a degree in rocket science (not that it'd be relevant) but if there was a spelling mistake on your CV it went in the bin.

      Sorry, but the way I see it, your CV is the first impression. It's not unreasonable to expect that you take the time to proofread and add some polish. No matter the level of education you have, if you don't put the effort into a CV/Application Form why am I to expect that you'll have the necessary devotion to work??

      Some might argue that it's OTTP for an Off License, but we still had jobs to be done and targets to meet. I expected high standards, and can't really see them being reached by someone who thinks the correct spelling (and presumably pronunciation) is 'supposably'!

      My view often gets denounced as 'elitist', but personally I don't think a bit of effort is that much to ask. You tend to use the same CV for a number of applications, so unless you don't actually want to work, it's going to be worth the extra effort.

      FAIL because thats the impact spelling mistakes have on your application for a job

      1. John Wilson


        "FAIL because thats the impact spelling mistakes have on your application for a job"

        That's. Apostrophe after the 't' denoting "FAIL because that is the impact" etc.

        Please fire yourself, and head to the nearest unemployment office.

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Anonymous Coward

          @Realy ... (sic)

          Odd, I was doing the opposite of complaining about the education system. Seems that both your comprehension and spelling need some work; you clearly have a problem with "l" and "ll". As for long sentences, outside Hemingway, literate English has always been able to manage them. That is one of the reasons for punctuation.

          I suggest some wider reading and an English literature and comprehension course for you.

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. Personne

        "Some might argue that it's OTTP for an Off License ..."

        I think you meant "Off Licence".

      4. Liam Johnson

        @Ben Tasker

        >>You could have had a degree in rocket science, but if there was a spelling mistake on your CV it went in the bin.

        Yes, your fail Icon was entirely correct there. But you are wrong, you are not elitist, just massively blinkered. I can only assume that spelling was the only thing you were ever good at.

        It is not unreasonable to expect people to proofread a CV, or even to get others to do so. It is however unreasonable to bin an otherwise excellent CV because you managed to spot a single error which someone else missed.

        Look up the word Dyslexia, which I am sure you can spell perfectly, and then consider that there are a range of levels between someone who no difficulty spelling and those who have extreme difficulty. Be happy that you can spell and then consider the many thousand skills which you are crap at.

      5. Anonymous Coward

        re Agreed

        "... an Off License," Aaaaaaargh. Even some Americans are learning the difference between "licence" and "license", "practise" and "practice".

        These clues are useful in written English, contrary to what the "all that matters is to be understood" brigade, whose happy-clappy approach led to the anarchy and incomprensibility called literacy today.

        How can one write such an email and get this wrong?

    4. Evil_Trev

      On duty Grammar Nazi respondes


      Since you requested it, I am pleased to inform you that there are grammatical errors in your post.

      For example, you end your forth sentence with a comma separated clause containing the words "for example". You then fail to give an example. I therefore deduce you are using the unsupported assertion already given in the offending sentence as the example. In this case the sentence could be improved rewriting it as follows.

      " For example; people don't seem to care if you mix up your/you're/yore or there/their/they're any more. "

      1. hplasm

        Sorry- you fell at :-

        "...your forth sentence..."

      2. Simon Walker

        Re: On duty Grammar Nazi respondes

        - "responds", not "respondes"

        - "fourth", not "forth"

        Those who live in glass houses...

      3. John Sturdy

        Let the GNs begin to fight amongst themselves...

        I believe that should be "fourth sentence". (Unless some color has leached into our number system.)

        1. Smarty Pants



          1. Anonymous Coward


            It's COLOR from where I sit... Us Yanks have done away with many of the unnecessary "U's"... Because they're silent, we've agreed they should be invisible as well.

            Flames... I expect to get flamed by the Grammar Nazis on the old side of the pond. Got my asbestos coat on already.

            1. elderlybloke


              Anon. Coward,

              You yanks changed the spelling of words in the English language , after your rebellion against His Majesty.

              Just to show the Limeys that they could stick their Kings English spelling ,

              You got very matey with the French about then but you still altered French words that had become English (after 1066)

              I live in a former colony , and HM still calls us " Her Loyal Subjects".

              Even though the Poms threw us overboard when they joined the Common Market (about 1970).

              Peace be with you all.

      4. disgruntled yank

        Go Forth!

        Never having programmed in it, I have a hard time judging "forth sentences"...

    5. Eddie Edwards


      But you are a traditionalist whiner :) It may have an impact on how you are perceived today, by older people who like to be traditionalist whiners. Give it another decade or two and no-one who cares will be left. Kids write like this and are understood, and at the end of the day that's all that matters. English has so much available context that "they're" and "their" don't really need to be spelled differently, so soon they won't be.

      You'll be turning in your grave when they amend the dictionaries to reflect this :) But dictionaries never did define the language; they merely document it.

      1. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

        Re: lol

        Eff this discussion and all who sail in it, quite frankly. I've heard it too many times, and there's only one sensible and rational conclusion.

        If you'll excuse me, I'm going to go back to trying to make sentences more betterer.

      2. Jim 59


        No. Written English provides far less context than spoken English. That's why we pronounce "they're" and "their" the same but write them very differently.

        The first dictionaries merely documented the existing language. But for at least 150 years they have been prescribing it, and helping us all to spell things the same way. It's tiresome, but you couldn't really have mass literacy otherwise. I am a geordie. If I spelled this post just like I say it, you wouldn't understand.

        The internet increases the emphasis on the written word and gloablises the effrort. Spelling will therefore become more important, not less. Adhering to a standard will help, just like other communication protocols.

        Old people generally run the world, so if you want a good job, suck up to them with some good spelling !

    6. Richard IV

      They're not entirely wrong

      It does have to be said that when the media is pervaded with examples of the English language that are _deliberately designed_ to be misinterpreted it is hardly surprising that comprehension levels dip. Companies with marketing departments should beware of the stones they throw.

      Allowing the spell checker to sort it out for you isn't a good idea in the same way that allowing calculators to do complicated sums for you is - language is a lot more slippery.

      Spontaneous communication is a lot more forgiving on linguistic errors than in a formal context. I think that the significant failure has been not to drill the fact that there's a difference into some kids.

      I have to say that I'm a bit confused over Rake's statement that "They were unable to complete the form because they could not ...put it together...". Was some assembly required? I'm afraid my comprehension levels dipped at that point.

  2. Anonymous Coward


    "They were unable to complete the form because they could not spell, put it together or read properly — completely illiterate. It’s a disgrace."

    Sound like IDEAL candidates for BT staff.

  3. Josco
    Thumb Up

    SMS & Twitter don't help

    Not sure about the validity of the University Education claim, but general literacy standards are at an all time low.

    Look at any comment section on the BBC news site as an example and discover that most of the comments are almost unreadable.

    1. Martin Owens


      I think your right that people can be way too fickle about spelling. I wouldn't mind if the English language was well formed and standardised, but it's not, it's just an evolved mess which is based on consensus. I take my grammar with a dose of logic and have taken to deliberately ignoring some daft rules such as 'its' for the 'it has' possessive contraction.

      A study I read seemed to indicate that students that uses SMS were much better at language than those that didn't. Perhaps it wasn't always spelled correctly, but I hear it's good for your comprehension and I think we give kids these days less credit then they deserve for being able to switch context and type more appropriately.

      * Myn's the oen with the dyslexics for dummies book in the pocket.

      1. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

        Re: Fickle

        >I think your right that people can be way too fickle about spelling.

        You don't mean fickle, do you?


      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        You're correct, those on my right are a fickle bunch

        However those on my left seem consistent in their spelling

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Fickle

        "I think your right that people can be way too fickle about spelling."

        As I'm reading that sentence, I'm sort of thinking that you're writing about someone who thinks people have a right to be way too fickle about spelling, then I see the full stop and my parser dumps core, and I have to reload and re-scan the sentence making corrections until it makes some sense.

        Should every reader of your sentence have to go through that wee rigmarole, or should you make a small effort to get it right in the first place?

        I know which way I go on that...

        Your comment suggests that you treat such "daft" grammar rules as unnecessary disambiguation, but there's no ambiguity when ignoring the grammar rule, merely the difference between the correct meaning and the wrong one.

        I do, however, allow some leeway for those with dyslexia and similar afflictions, where mistakes will get through despite reasonable effort (very possibly in this comment of mine).

    2. Craig McAllister

      RE: SMS & Twitter

      General literacy standards at an all time low? I call BS.

      Education in this country is universal. It wasn't always thus.


      ps. Things could always be better.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Business have themselves to blame

    UK business should be playing a part in the education system like they used to. My OND was busines driven and I'm doing well.

    I welcome the proposed immigration limiations as British Business should be putting the effort in to training and bringing up our own population in to the work place and playing their part in investing in the skills of our children. Instead they go for the short term (cheap or expensive doesn't come in to it) of importing the skills and foregoing the training issues.

    About time they put their long term money (and their patience) where their mouths are. Token efforts and small projects aren't good enough IMHO.

    (flame suit donned - lemme have it.)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not really

      Business just wants to make a profit. The best way of achieving that is to persuade the government to cut education and taxes, exploit the last generation of educated workers, then move abroad. The long-term survival of UK society, or even of mankind, isn't their problem. It's people, not corporations, who might have an interest in educating the next generation of citizens. If they want to save the education system they have to persuade politicians to listen to them instead of the corporate lobbyists.

      Corporations aren't even interested in their own long-term survival. They just care about the next few quarters.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Good points but...

        I don't think it is that easy to separate people and corporation. Or perhaps that it what has happened. Corporations were part of the community that they were in. A symbiotic existance, if you will. The community had a resposibility to the corporation and the corporation had a resulsibility to the community in which it existed.

        That's what's broken and needs to be brought back.

  5. Nigel Whitfield.

    Perhaps ...

    ... if some of these big companies didn't spend so much time and effort finding ways to avoid paying corporation tax, we'd have more cash to spend on better schools.

  6. SuperTim

    Couldn't agree more!

    I have had the unfortunate task to sift through numerous applicants for a single position in my area. The literacy was pretty abysmal to say the least. The yoof of today seem to think that they can spell words however they want and most can't string a sentence together at all.

    All in all, I easily binned at least half of the applicants. The remaining half were literate enough to tell me they couldn't do the job. We had to readvertise in the end.

    Seems education stopped about 15 years ago.

  7. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Makes the selection process easier

    If a proportion of the candidates do you the favour of eliminating themselves, through poor spelling and punctuation, before you even have to go to the trouble of analysing their qualifications, what's the problem?

    However, looking at it from another angle. I wonder how many of the personnel people are in a position to judge the quality of applications, themselves. Have they gone through some sort testing process to make sure they can spell - or are they just rejecting candidates who don't make the same spelling and grammar mistakes that they think qualifies as "proper" english?

  8. N2

    I dont disagree

    But I dare say that a fair few university professors would say that BTs offerings to broadband networking 'could do better'

  9. LuMan

    Sad fact of life

    Can't agree more. I recently (well, about 6 years ago) worked as an admin temp at a secondary school (well, the kids were aged 10-ish to 16-ish, but in my day it would have been a Senior School). One of my jobs was to type up the reports kids had written after they'd been caught doing something wrong. After I managed to decipher the actual letter-shapes adopted I then had to figure out what the HELL they were trying to say; most of it was in txt spk and the rest in some bizarre street dialect which I didn't pick up from CSI or NCIS! If I hadn't found it so hilarious I'd have cried.

    Even now, some of the work experience lot we get in at my current place of work make me shudder when I think of how they're supposed to be the future of our great nation.

    Bring back basic literacy lessons, that's what I say.

    1. Clarissa

      Re: Sad fact of life

      I would have told the kids to do them again until they were readable and understandable. No point in wasting my time when they can't be bothered.

  10. Sampler

    Math comprehension seems to be poor too:

    "He said BT received 26,000 applications for just 170 apprenticeship posts. But 6,000 were useless." That looks more like little over a fifth than a quarter to me..

    1. Clarissa

      Re: Math comprehension seems to be poor too

      As the figure is just over 23% I'd go with the quarter myself.

    2. Chris Miller

      Near enough is good enough

      It's closer to a quarter than a fifth. Given that both numbers are likely to have been subject to rounding, it sounds perfectly fair to me.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    He's right about University Education

    I'm a Comp Sci graduate with Hons etc etc... And to be honest, in every job I've had in the 10 years since graduation (all IT sector), I've never used any of the stuff I learnt during the course.

    Vocational college would have been much more appropriate to the vast majority of work out there. Quicker and cheaper for all concerned.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      RE: He's right about University Education

      You may have missed the point of University there. Uni is not about being taught to do something, it's about getting the tools to enable you do do something.

      I have the same degree and have used the knowlege and experience gained many many times. For instance, because I know how networking and protocols work, I can make a more educated guess than someone who learned which plug goes where when designing a network. Because I understand database design, I can spot a poorly designed or configured product. Knowing how the windows API and coding works, I can determine whether there's a bug, feature, or design issue.

      You'd be surprised how many people I see making mistakes based on their limited understanding of the subject. I have previously seen senior consultants battling a "Windows bug" when I later told them their issue was by design and they were implementing incorrectly.

      Please do not devalue my education simply because you missed the point of your own.

  12. Trevor 3
    Paris Hilton

    Language is moving on

    I may get shot by some of you but here's my take on it.

    Language is always moving on. If we were to speak to people 100 years ago in the way that we do now, chances are they would call us illiterate. Why is this? In the last 100 years the English language as we know it has moved on. We have compressed some words, others have dropped out of fashion. What we are seeing now is the future of the written word.

    Why should we have to type in full words when we can use txt spk? In about 50 years time I can see all but a few of us using it. It's quicker, it's easier. I agree right now it does make you look like a 'tard saying things like "gng to c bgt rprt bcast, tht Osborne is a twt!" but if we all understand what it says, then what exactly is the problem, and isn't that the whole point of language? That we all understand each other?

    Paris, because, no matter what, its rude to talk with your mouth full

    1. Simon Neill

      Hence the problem.

      I DON'T understand what you just put. What is "bgt rprt bcast"? is "twt" twit or twat? (or something else entirely?) they are different words.

      The basic cause of the issue is that this language evolves LOCALLY, its more like an accent than a language. I once watched a kid go through his entire document and replace all the letters with other characters (added accents, § ô and so on) and he used the same character for 1, L and I.

    2. Chris Miller

      What's the point of language?

      It's to allow you to communicate your internal thoughts to other speakers/readers of the language. Your example is comprehensible, with some ambiguity, but it requires more effort (decoding) from the recipient than if it were written in standard English. It may make it easier for you to write - and if you're sending it to your mates, they may be prepared to make the effort to read it - but if you put it into a CV, why should I be bothered to read it (when I've got another 100 to get through).

      1. Trevor 3


        The point I was trying to make, albeit badly i admit, was that if a majority or even all people began to write this way you wouldn't know any different.

        What if we did adopt this txt spk as normal? Surely people would be complaining that they have all these really long words with redundant letters to read and why can't they write in a more up to date way?

        Personally, I could do without txt spk for the reasons everyone has outlined, but I'm not going to hold back on it if that's the way written English goes.

        I can imagine teachers in the future instead of telling pupils about old text having F's instead of S's (sucfeffion is my favourite), and spelling wasn't invented, they will tell the pupils that we had a rather inefficient way of writing in the 21st century.

        It *could* happen. It's the kids who use this txt spk and they are the ones who will rule the world one day. All they have to do is agree on a standard.

        Faced with 100 badly written CV's I think I would baulk too. They are, however, only badly written compared to what the English language looks like now, not 50-100 years time. Imagine trying to read Shakespeare's CV now, in its original form.

    3. Chris Miller


      Thanks - it's nice to get a considered reply. I absolutely agree that language should (indeed must) change over time, but I think its evolution along the lines of txtspk is unlikely because it's unnecessarily difficult to read (and ambiguous). I would like to think that in future our communications will not need to be limited to 140 characters.

      I'm a huge fan of Ian (M) Banks, but my least favourite of his books is 'Feersum Endjinn', simply because it contains large sections written in phonetic English like that of the title, which also makes it unnecessarily hard to read (and contributes nothing to the storyline IMHO).

      BTW the pre-1800 use of the long (medial or descending) 's' only resembles, but isn't, an 'f' - it survives as the integral sign in maths (analogous to the use of sigma to mean 'sum'). Final 's' and the second letter of a double 's' was written using the modern form of the letter, so successions would have resembled succefsions. The double 's' form led to the use in German typefaces of the sharp 's' (which resembles, but isn't, a Greek beta).

      1. Trevor 3


        Thanks for the info on typefaces and the descending S's and the tip on Ian Banks, I shall look him up later.

        There is one positive about 140 character CVs in that you can probably get about 140 of them on 1 sheet of A4, which does save on desk space and reading let alone trees. The downside of course is they'll all read something like this:

        WIN/LIN admn x yrs VMware-HA,VMo,SVMo,SRM. TCP/IP/AD/DNS/DHCP/SQL=Lots. Storage=HP/IBM/Fibre/iSCSI=Lots. I AM TEH AWESOMEZZZZ! call 07********

  13. leona 2

    not surprised really.

    Just look around on any internet channel, facebook, even this forum, people can not be bothered to take the time to correctly spell words or even string a sentence together. Even browsers have a built in spell checker, they are too lazy to use it! Just listen too the role models around, I mean the characters from Little Britain are not far wrong "Ya but, no But", standards have been dropping for years, everyone can pass a test now, because it wouldn't be 'PC' to fail anyone. Where my partner works is a total disgrace (not IT but still) they will take on anyone, doesn't matter if they swear, talk about their private 'love' lives, belch, sulk like children, and these are grown adults! (you'd think), while they are supposed to be looking after disabled children, its disgusting. Professionalism is a dying trend.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      re "browsers have a built in spell checker, they are too lazy to use it"

      Most people are too lazy to turn it off, in my experience.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    So what?

    Half the population have below-average intelligence, some way below. You can't teach a dog to read either, no matter how good the teacher is.

  15. Whitter

    Assumptions, assumptions.

    One wonders if "the form" was written well rather than answered poorly.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They need to

    only take applicants from the long(er)-term unemployed then !

    An ability to fill-in a form for JSA (42 pages) or ESA (52 pages) should help enormously in filling-in a BT form.

    Maybe they'd be better at looking at their current employees though AND GETTING MY PHONE LINE WORKING FOR MORE THAN HALF THE DAY ?

  17. Anonymous Coward

    Should of - AAaaarrgghhh!

    I have to agree that the standard of English language in the UK is appalling. I may not have the best English language skills, but I do try and if I am corrected on a mistake, then I try to remember the correction. It has come to the point that those who study English as a second language have a much better grasp of the written language than the English people here.

    Something that I never saw before I went onto Internet forums is the phrase "should of". I then happen to read this article about the Daily Mail...

    It's either "should've", or more appropriately for formal writing "should have". When I was at school, the only books we read were those by established authors, and thus you were hidden from bad grammar. Nowadays, everyone is writing blogs or in Internet forums and you see shoddy language everywhere. If you try to correct them, they go livid!

    1. blackworx

      Wholeheartedly agree

      I had someone try to tell me in these very forums that "should of", "would of" etc. are colloquialisms. Aaargh! HEADDESKHEADDESKHEADDESK.

  18. Nick Ryan Silver badge


    Appalling. That's generally the level of literacy I come across from the so called best educated and most successful exam passing generation.

    Not that they've dumbed the examination questions down or made it easier... never! Thoughts such as these are not to be entertained as it might pyschologically impact our highly stresed school children who are proud to have the better results than the previous year, and the year before that, and so on.

    Any mention of the fact that A-Level questions now cover topics no more taxing than those that used to be found at GCSE / GCE-O level is strictly not permitted either. Won't somebody think of the children? Belittling a child's achievements because they're rewards are the same for less effort is something that is not permitted.

    Aside from the dumbing down of the examinations, the further problem is that all schools do now is teach children how to pass the next test/examination. They are no longer there to provide a rounded education or a broad general knowledge to give the child a good start in life and the foundation for further study.

    The situation's so bad, there are now a growing number of schools that don't do examinations as they're frequently not worth the paper that they're printed on. These schools instead pride themselves on providing children with a good education and knowledge.

    1. A J Stiles

      Well .....

      It doesn't help that the matriculation boards have been privatised. They sell the exams as a complete service package, and schools (who are paid according to the number of passing grades) are obviously going to choose exams from matriculation boards with high pass rates. In other words, easy ones.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    While I hate to agree with the boss of BT on anything

    He has it spot on.

    In fact, my spelling and grammar were pretty disgraceful as a kid - school had done nothing for me in that regard. What did help? Being a frequent poster on various techy forums and having my posts roundly laughed at for several months. Honestly - the change was miraculous, my English teacher asked what drugs I had taken when I started handing in essays with the words spelled correctly for a change.

    Kids need motivation, what motivation do they have to learn how to read or write (or do anything useful) when they are effectively above criticism from their parents and their school? Luckily the internet is a place where you can insult anyone, even kids - and boy does it get the job done a lot faster than sugar coating ever could.

    1. Efros


      Nothing like unremitting humiliation from your peer group to get you to toe the line. Unfortunately the peer group giving the humiliation, in most cases, are the ones with questionable literacy skills.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Yep

        "Unfortunately the peer group giving the humiliation, in most cases, are the ones with questionable literacy skills."

        That's true. Most kids are likely to spend at least some of their time taking flak from the hateful sprogs of various KFC chugging dole dossers, who see a lack of knowledge on such highly important topics as drum & bass music, graffiti and local "gangs" as a weakness.

        In my experience those kids were incredibly easy to humour. In their presence I'd say something retarded and they'd quickly leave me alone to start using my brain again. These days of course your average kid is just as likely to slit his wrists the first time someone tells him he's not cool. Even if the person accusing him of being uncool is blatantly repulsive.

        Kids need a dose of common sense more than anything.

  20. iMlite

    Knowledge is now in the eye of the beholder!

    About 18 years ago I was tasked with recruiting some trainee IT staff. I was given support from a guy who was close to retiring. What we found was that many applicants only had the most limited literacy skills. The Guy I was working with noted that when he started recruitment in the 1960's the literacy and numeracy attainment of potential recruits was even lower. The difference was that a rigorously assessed qualification - 'O' and 'A' level, enabled the applicant to know the level of literacy required and the recruiter to know exactly what they were getting, and sift applications accordingly. However, over the age of 25, the applicants experience became more important - those who had achieved in work had usually developed the relevant literacy skills. Today I think the real problem is that individuals have no understanding of their personal capabilities. 'GCSE' , 'A' levels and degrees are no longer good guides, to recruiters or to applicants, as to employer expectations.

  21. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Efros


      Should be for the benefit of the student, if it is not for their benefit then the student has no investment and consequently couldn't give a shit. Testing as a means of assessing a school's performance is ridiculous, to use an American phrase, "You get given lemons, you make lemonade".

  22. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    How ironic

    Personally I find quite ironic that the responsible for poor programming and intellectually-lacking TV shows bashes the government for scholarship failure.

    Maybe if BT, as a nation-wide provider of mass entertainment, had pressed on with intellectually stimulating fare and educational material, upholding high standards of communication and eschewing the mind-numbing stupidity that inundates channels today, maybe the youngsters would have been more favorably impressed with the notion of effort being rewarded and of the merit of honest work.

    Instead, we get such lunacy as Star Academy or Who Wants To Marry A Millionaire.

    Dear BT : blaming the government on the disgraceful status of education among today's youth is so ironic that it beggars belief. You and your shoddy programming are just as largely to blame for the current belief in easy millions for minimal effort.

    And SMS and Twitter have done nothing to help communication skills either.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      BT as an entertainment provider?

      Shurely shome mishtake? Don't you mean Sky or Endemol? Last time I checked, BT weren't big content producers. Perhaps it's their premium rate phonelines for voting?

    2. Anonymous Coward


      Are you sure you mean BT and not BBC?

    3. Tony Green

      Am I missing something?

      BT a "nation-wide provider of mass entertainment"?

      In all the years I worked for BT it was a communications provider, not a TV company.

    4. John G Imrie


      I think you have confused BT, supplier of telephonic communication to the masses with the BBC, supplier of canned entertainment for same.

  23. Gordon is not a Moron

    Nevermind English standards

    Mike Rake needs a maths lesson, a quarter of 26000 is 6500 not 6000. But that 6000 is a nice round number there's fair chance that it's bee rounded for convience as "one fifth of applications unusable" doesn't seem as bad as the chosen figure.

    1. Efros
      Thumb Down


      A quarter of 26000 is 6500, a fifth is 5200, 6000 is closer to a quarter of 26000 than it is to a fifth, perhaps he should have just said three thirteenths.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I wish

    Schools had done more than push University when I was 18. Had they done that I would probably done an apprenticeship, but then when companies like BT haven't helped by not offering them for years (possibly BT have, I'm not sure, but most companies have not).

    As for spelling, I hope they are not talking about things like your/you're/yore or there/their/they're (Which are a constant frustration to dyslexics. I try my damdest to get it right, and hope that has not lost me jobs, but it wouldn’t surprise me), but people who do not even try wrtin lk tis at al tms an nt usin any punctuation, or finishing every sentence, or less, with three full stop's... I see friend's of friend's on facebook (No one I know would do that fortunately), people with degrees and good education, doing that.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    In the old days, when I went through the school system, only a maximum of 10% were supposed to be capable of passing the 11+ exam.

    In the inerests of equality of opportunity we now have targets of 50% of the population attending university and obtaining a degree.

    I too question the value of todays university education and the resultant degree, including my own obtained via the Open University some years after my abysmal efforts at grammar school.

  26. Ozzy

    Dumbing down maths

    1. Teaching Maths In 1970

    A timber merchant sells a load of timber for £1000.

    His cost of production is 4/5 of the selling price.

    What is his profit?

    2. Teaching Maths In 1980

    A timber merchant sells a load of timber for £1000.

    His cost of production is 4/5 of the selling price, or £800.

    What is his profit?

    3. Teaching Maths In 1990

    A timber merchant sells a load of timber for £1000.

    His cost of production is £800.

    Did he make a profit?

    4. Teaching Maths In 2000

    A timber merchant sells a load of timber for £1000.

    His cost of production is £800 and his profit is £200.

    Your assignment: Underline the number 200.

    5. Teaching Maths In 2009

    A timber merchant cuts down a beautiful forest because he is totally selfish and inconsiderate and cares nothing for the habitat of animals or the preservation of our woodlands.

    He does this so he can make a profit of £200. What do you think of this way of making a living?

    Topic for class participation after answering the question:

    How did the birds and squirrels feel as the logger cut down their homes?

    There are no wrong answers.

    (If you are upset about the plight of the animals in question counselling will be available)

    1. Efros

      That isn't mathematics

      That's arithmetic mate.

  27. Anonymous Coward

    Don't blame the kids

    Can't blame the kids here chaps. It is the fault of the teachers and years of political meddling. I have the same sorry experience of graduates and school leavers. Mostly illiterate and no practical skills at all. In fact I'd go as far as to say I'd take an OND/HNC/HND qualified candidate who has worked in industry, over any graduate.

    The system in schools where you advance every year to the next level regardless of whether you are competent in that level is seriously flawed. A system where you advance to the next level having proved competence would benefit the kids more. Not a bad idea for further education too.

    How can you compare a generation who grew up with toys that you had to build, compared to a generation that expect everything done for them?

    Trevor 3, English changes over time, but a person from 100 years ago (1910) could understand me and my vocabulary quite easily and vice versa. Txt speak and street slang belong in the gutter, where you will not doubt find most of the users too.

    1. Paul 4
      Thumb Down

      Actualy no

      "Trevor 3, English changes over time, but a person from 100 years ago (1910) could understand me and my vocabulary quite easily and vice versa."

      Yes, a person young in 1910 could understand you, as someone young could now, but you could not understand day to day conversation of someone not speeking the queens English.

      For example:

      "I just passed Smithys gammy chavy just this morning outside the lushery down the chapel. He was on the blob for some chink. I chucked him a duce to get rid of him. Mark my words he'll be up before the beak and on the boat soon."

      Note how some slang stays, some goes and some changes. Slang has always been like that, and always will be. The diffrence now is that more people can write, and people write more. The idea that this is new is utter rubbish.

  28. Anonymous Coward


    When I were a lad, parents and teachers used to be able to say "work hard at school/college/apprenticeship or you won't get a decent job". And it was true in general.

    These days, what's the point working hard? Even the brightest hardest working best qualified folks know that their continued employment, let alone their career prospects, depend on the dice rolled by some distant faceless heartless unprincipled beancounter, usually in London.

    If you want to be rich and famous, swear and spit and have tantrums like a primadonna footballer or gangsta crapper, or do something stupid enough to be a famous for fifteen microseconds "pop idol" starlet.

    The sooner Whitehall and big business realises that full employment is not a fundamentally evil idea, the sooner kids start learning to talk and write proper again.

    [yes it should say properly, innit. I hope Pascal's confusion of BT and BBC is deliberate too, but I'm not sure[

    1. Geoff Campbell


      The scarcity of, and lack of sucurity in, modern jobs is a good reason to work harder in education, not to treat it as optional. The jobs are out there, you just need to compete for them.

      Fortunately, the way modern yoof appears to be going, my two kids should be able to take over the entire country armed with nothing more than a small fruit knife and the evil cunning I have instilled in them, in about ten years time.


  29. Winkypop Silver badge

    We don't need no education...

    Well, um yes, I think you do.

    Pity no one is really offering it any more.

    Not like in my day, etc...

  30. Anonymous Coward

    *twunt alarm rings*

    "He said: "If you look at Scotland, it has the highest graduation rate [in the UK], but lower productivity than northeast England. There is a very interesting question about whether university degrees turn into productivity.""

    Really? Surely there's an interesting question about whether university degrees turn into staying in the area in which you gained said degree despite a lack of available jobs, or moving to an area where there actually are some fricking jobs for graduates - say, London. Or there's an interesting question about the disparity between the quality of education available in Scotland compared to the prospects for employment, which would lead a large number of people to go and study there for 3 or 4 years for a quality education, and then bugger off back "home" once they've received it. And so on..

    This kind of simplistic reasoning really gets my goat.. What an arse.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      What I was thinking

      Also you might find that a lot of the Scots universities attract a large number of non-Scots students (and therefore graduates), who will then return from whence they came...

    2. smallfaces

      twunt indeed

      The vast* majority of Yoony students in Edinburgh are not natives - huge amount of them are from Englandshire.

      *completely unresearched anectdotale prejudice.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If you look at Scotland...

    ...when they graduate they go down to London where the jobs are.

  32. Richard Scratcher

    How Ironic

    "There is a very interesting question about whether university degrees turn into productivity."

    I was a BT apprentice and, after rising through the ranks and looking for promotion into management, I had quite a problem. Almost all of the adverts in the company newspaper contained the phrase - "The successful applicant will be educated to degree level". Years of experience and a detailed knowledge of the company did not seem to be significant when compared to a degree in say zoology.

  33. Anonymous Coward

    International effects

    I've heard (through a couple of routes, one of them fairly authoritative) that the European Commission is having difficulty recruiting English conference interpreters (to work into English), not just because of the poor state of language education in Britain but because of the poor standard of English in language graduates.

    Apparently the Dutch now have better English!

    1. NogginTheNog

      Not necessarily that surprising

      Since ESL students will tend to get taught a much more formalised version of English that 'us natives', then it's quite probable (though none the less disappointing) they might also write it rather better!

      I once had an interesting conversation with a French friend of mine, and English teacher, who took great delight in pointing out our mistakes in the use of our own language - in the end I just had to resort to the fall-back of "well WE invented it!"

    2. Trygve

      That sounds entirely plausible...

      Having spent a moderate amount of time over there, they generally assemble pretty good english sentences. Rather scarily, a large amount of them can also do the same in German.

      The benchmark of lingustic competence in Northern Europe seems to be your own plus one other language reasonably fluently, and a third moderately OK.

      In England, it seems most of the locals can't even manage English fluently ,and the only people who can speak a foreign language are immigrants.

  34. Christopher Slater-Walker

    Language does change, but...

    Couple of things:

    Language change is real and inevitable. That's why we don't still speak Anglo-Saxon or whatever its various predecessors were. Nevertheless, it is my opinion (for all I have is an opinion, not being particularly qualified to comment on this subject) that change in the written language is much slower than in spoken language. The effect of this difference is that we can still understand, for example, almost all of the King James Bible without having to think about it. At school I also studied a bit of Chaucer, which again is understood with some effort, but not all that much.

    So it seems reasonable to expect that applicants might understand and reflect this difference when submitting CVs.

    But for me the most important thing is not the simple fact that your CV is gramatically and orthographically sound, but that you MADE THE EFFORT to make it so, thus creating the right first impression.

  35. Sam Liddicott

    does that mean

    In conversation with youth I know well; they'll ask a question: "does that mean (something entirely disconnected from the topic)?"

    Baffled; I'll try to clarify: "Does WHAT mean that?"

    The response is a puzzled "... er I don't know"

    It's as if the youth speak in well-used cliches that they don't understand; and I begin to wonder if they actually mean anything by what they say.

  36. SonnyJimm


    wat r thes peeples talkin bout. my speeling n gramer r grate?

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon



      I fink yo ment gr8 m8!!!!

  37. Sachin

    Parents and Technology to be blamed too..

    Recently I had a dicussion with someone, who by the way is well-educated (some senior engineer in Orange). According to him, writing "there" instead of "their" is acceptable. Doh!!! The two words have got completely different meanings. So if a parent find this acceptable, how can we blame the kids?

    We have also seen a huge decline in the English Language since the introduction of SMS. When my 19 yr old cousin sends me a text, it takes me quite a while to understand and make any kind of sense what she's saying

  38. Efros


    "If you look at Scotland, it has the highest graduation rate [in the UK], but lower productivity than northeast England. There is a very interesting question about whether university degrees turn into productivity."

    Currently 12.5% of all students in Scotland are from overseas. 41% of entrants to Edinburgh University were English. I doubt many remain after their studies are over unless they have managed to secure employment.

  39. Adam Trickett

    Hate reviewing CVs

    I hate having to review CVs and application letters. I try to give people so leeway as I know the agencies mangle CVs before we see them, but on the whole most of them are terrible.

    I can understand people being sloppy or making errors in spoken conversation, but in a short written document, prepared well in advance the level of error is quite appalling and unacceptable.

    I've got dyslexia and only got a C at English Language 'O' Level, but when I can see the errors you know there must be something wrong.

    It's unfair to judge people by their CV but when you get dozens of applicants per position you have to trim the interview list a little.

  40. SteyBrae

    Education, education, education

    When T Blair spoke the words, I assumed he meant that education was a very important thing to help children learn, develop themselves, and lead fulfilling lives. And maybe he did.

    Unfortunately what happened in the following years was that education continued as a political football and also suffered from the introduction of inappropriate managerial techniques, in particular the unholy regime of pupil testing that was introduced in England.

    While the stated reason for this was to allow teachers to monitor the progress of children, it was quickly seized on to provide spreadsheet fodder so that schools could be measured and league tables could be constructed to "prove" that usually kids from rich and leafy suburbs did better than kids from poor inner city estates.

    This led to the idea of "failing schools", and threats to sack headteachers, so of course heads made sure that their school did well enough in the league tables to avoid that danger, and Ofsted seemed to be blind to the erosion of real education i.e. learning how to think, and its replacement by cramming for the next test. Teachers even began to "teach to the test" - spend a large part of the school year preparing kids to sit the next test, doing practics tests, etc. No wonder kids learned to hate going to school and hate the boring narrowness of what they experienced there.

    What do we see now? Gove, the new Minister for Education, wants to divert money away from state schooling and give it to local interest groups who want to set up their own schools, based on a model from Sweden that the Swedish education minister has already stated has not improved education there.

    Demand better - much better - from your politicians. Contact your MP and tell him/her how you want the education system to change.

  41. Alex King
    Thumb Up

    On the other hand...

    The general low standard of written communications does keep me in a job, as I have to proof, edit and otherwise improve everything that comes out of my part of the organisation.

    I'm getting busier as time goes on, and it seems that what I do is becoming an increasingly specialised and highly valued skill. From a purely selfish point of view, I like this.

    I entirely agree that the point of sending people to university seems to have been lost in the headlong rush to get everyone going there. I'm all for everyone getting further training and education after secondary school, but sending everyone to university to get a spurious degree helps no-one.

    Oh, and I don't see Americanisation as being the issue - ours is a mongrel language and this is the root of its success around the world. No point in shutting the stable door now.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon


      For my own personal selfish viewpoint I have to agree with you on this one. As an ageing IT contractor I would normally now be struggling to get contracts over the up and coming youthful pretenders (i.e. those who could approach my practical skills and would be prepared to work for a lot less). As it is, I feel as if I have a (6-12 month) job for life simply because the competition is going backwards.

      Not much good for the country as a whole though.

      Oh, and I ditched my degree after a year as it became clear that all one needed to do to obtain a good degree was to work hard. I already knew I could do that so jumped back into industry to get a good salary and experience with no debt hanging over my head.

  42. Witty username
    Thumb Down

    And yet...

    the morons at Openreach and SFI etc still keep coming..

  43. edwardecl
    Thumb Up

    I agree, although I don't know the exact numbers.

    I can understand people making basic/common grammatical errors by mistake. When I was first taught English and this was about 17 - 18 years ago now, grammar was taught by mostly example. Like a lot of things such a maths, science and other stuff, everything is taught out of the book or by example and not really explained.

    What they really needed to do is explain the logic, why you do it or what the point of something is and not to have a memory contest. If it was explained to me why then maybe it would have sunk in quicker. It was years later in secondary school where a learned for myself (not taught) what grammar is used for and how to apply it.

    If they would have said the ' is to shorten a word (they're = they are, it's = it is, 'bus = omnibus, don't = do not) and [name of person/object]'s = describes owner/attribute of (James's Ruler, stone's throw), then it makes perfect sense.

    It's quite sad really. You know what they say about teachers though, those who can do...

  44. martin burns

    Resident Logic Nazi

    Sorry, but you simply can't compare the graduation & productivity levels in a country and draw any meaningful conclusions. At least: not while you have freedom of movement over the borders (including the North & Irish seas).

    Obvious alternative (and equally probable/logically worthless) scenarios include:

    1) Economic reality makes it unviable for hardworking graduates of Scottish Universities to find worthwhile jobs in Scotland

    2) Scottish employers are over-awed by applicants from elsewhere, and give jobs to foreigners who turn out to be lazy bastards

    3) Scottish Universities are of such high quality that they attract the best from all over, who return to their homes to live the rest of their lives (variation on point 1)

    4) Scottish degrees are a piece of cake to do

    5) There are other factors in play

    Several combinations of the above are possible.

    Now, if we're going to start complaining about the employability of various groups, a capacity for logical thinking would be on *my* criteria list.

  45. Chris 211

    I changed my mind.

    When I first read the article I thought, 'yeah, young people are pretty dumb' which they are, they are young after all, what do you expect. I then started reading how all you employers ditched CV's without a second glance based on a couple of spelling or grammer mistakes which was admitted by the same employer had no relevance to the actual job. This makes me very angry. I am 37 now and I have always had problems spelling, even now this post is constantly corrected by firefox dictionary. However I am not stupid, there is no correlation between the ability to spell and intelligence. I am a high earning engineer building corporate networks and ISP's so I understand complex things and yet ask me to spell on the spot and I will fail. Do I need to spell to do my job, no, I use technology to help me. What this tells me is that employers are employing people based on one aspect and asking them to do another, how stupid is that. Do you employ a wood worker to edit a magazine? I suggest employers stop being lazy and actually employ people with the right skills, for the right job. I have always deplored the idea that science exams mark down on bad spelling, why? If its unreadable that's understandable but what has a high ability to do physics or chemistry got to do with spelling. What happens is that physics genius is crushed and beaten down simply because they are not interested or cant spell very well. Ask yourself this, are English teachers marked down because they are not very good at chemistry?

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: I changed my mind

      You've missed the point slightly:

      A CV is a very important document therefore it should treated as such and the writer must ensure that to the best of their abilities and theire resources it is, as much as possible correct.

      Checking a CV for grammar and spelling mistakes and rejecting those that have bad mistakes weeds out those candidates that are either (a) too stupid or lazy to use a spell checker or (b) don't care enough about their CV to ensure that it is correct. Friends, family and professionals are all available to check a CV prior to submission, failing to do this is a good indication that the candidate is not serious enough about working.

    2. Sam Liddicott

      you are wrong

      Chris; this isn't about people who can't spell on the spot, but about the amount of preparation a candidate will put into something which is supposedly of critical importance to themselves.

      A job application is not a science exam, it's a form of salesmanship.

      If an applicant can't, won't or doesn't even know about the importance of a good first impression then the employer is right to leave them behind for someone who does.

      When the employers customer says - "What a clown you just sent me" and the employer says "yeah - he was like that on his job application too"

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    I always find it funny....

    That people are so closed minded that they can only compare others to their own short sighted view of the world.

    I love the comments of the people claiming to throw out CVs for a single spelling error as well...You guys are a joke and quite frankly not worth working for. I once worked for a guy like this, cared more that the staff had polished shoes and ties on than the quality of their work, not the way to keep staff or make decent money. Lose-Lose for him, but could he see it? could he fuck, more concerned with making up bullshit to the customers in order to get their cash, then never delivering...But you guys would have liked him...never sent out a document with a spelling mistake in.

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: I always find it funny....

      A CV is a candidates first opportunity to make a good impression on a potential employer. If they can't manage to get this very important document right, what does this say about the quality of their work or attention to detail.

      Of course it doesn't mean that they are unemployable, but it does mean that they do not take the level of due care and attention that is required for an important document.

      Me? I've rejected CVs because I don't like the look of them. For example, if a candidate has just found that they have 15 fonts and 40 available colours in their word processor, there's no need to try to use as many of them as possible in a single document such as a CV. My rationale on this was that if their CV annoyed me, then their work probably would as well. I admit that this isn't a perfect way to filter candidates but when you have 50 CVs a day to wade through, you have to start somewhere. One thing I always made a point of doing was to provide feedback on every single one. There's little ruder than never receiving a reply, even if it's "no".

  47. Anonymous Coward

    I believe the problem starts in the primary school.

    When I was young, I distinctly remember doing lots of comprehension exercises. I remember lots of work to ensure our hand-written work was always in the lines! We were marked on how neat and tidy the work was. Each spelling mistake was carefully picked out and the dreaded red biro marks that constantly littered my work became a constant niggle to my parents!

    My little ones are aged between 6 and 8 years old, the work they have to bring home is always of the course work type. They have a large A4 sized book, no lines to write on. Each week they are set a task to describe something in words and pictures. Not once have I seen any corrections to grammar or spelling in 9 months of work. Spelling mistakes are simply left in, so now I feel quite bad having to pick out spelling mistakes my children's work before they hand it in. Surely that should be the job of the teachers? I am not a fuddy-duddy pedant, but writing formally is a useful skill that needs to be developed and is vital if you go into business or higher education.

    It must be a government plot to ensure we can no longer communicate, slowly turning us into a stupid, docile population, unable to express ourselves and therefore unable to complain about our lot!

  48. Sir Runcible Spoon


    I blame the three R's...


    Writing and



  49. TkH11


    We have the highest exam results in history, we're doing absolutely fine, brilliant even, according to Mr. Brown and his psychophants.

    I soon learned, don't ever trust the government's figures. Check the international results and you will soon notice that we've fallen way down the league over the years whilst Labour were in power in Mathematics. The international results paint quite a different picture.

    It's all to do with the lefty goal's of it's not fair to upset the kids by having them fail exams.

    With such an ideal there are only two possible strategies:

    1) Make the kids work harder, improve the teaching so the kids get better results

    2) Dumb down the exams, make them easier so that more pass.

    Evidentally, the Labour government chose the latter. Not that they will ever admit that. If you're lucky, it might revealed in a declassified document in 50 years time, but given Tony Blair's sofa style politics where the recording of notes of meetings was quite intentionally reduced so as to avoid leaving an audit trail of dodgy goings-on, such evidence probably won't surface unless it's in the form of someone's memoirs.

    The move to coursework based exams was a big mistake. We debated this in school approximately 5 years before the government introduced GCSEs, and in class, even we children realised that coursework based exams would be easier. We were kids, and even we knew it! The people, the adults in government must have known too.

    Sure, we went through the pros and cons questioning whether exams were really fair, to those people that didn't have such good memories, but we knew course work based courses would be easier.

    And in later years, I undertook my first coursework based course..ahem..which happened to be in computer easy. We had exams too for it, but achieving nearly 30% of the final examination mark by doing the coursework throughout the year was easy.

    I accept the argument that some people struggle with memory (well, repetition usually helps, and knowing the subject matter does too!), but by making courses predominantly coursework based has made them easier for everyone, and the whole of society will/has suffered just to appease a few kids that struggled with memory based exams.

    When it comes to difficult subjects such as maths, physics, engineering the UK is a joke. Celebrities joke how they can't do maths, as if they're proud of it. In France they celebrate their mathematicians. Even straight names which are named after people include their profession on the sign! It's unreal. But what an attitude they have compared to us in the UK.

    (Can you imagine a 3D representation of a 4D hypercube being constructed in London? Or would you find a 2D barcode painted on the wall of someone's house? Just wouldn't happen in this country would it? But they're there in Paris.)

    With this national attitude towards these subjects this country has had it, we're bound to fall behind countries such as Germany, France, India.

  50. legion

    Noise not sense

    Not a comment on more than 20K chasing 170 available places!

    Shame for the poor sods that have such a difficult job weeding through the desperate and forced applications

  51. disgruntled yank

    Bad yes, but worse?

    When first out of school I worked as a copy editor. Eventually I discovered that people tend to care when their computers don't work, much more than they care when their sentences read like the results of the emacs "dissociated press," and that they pay accordingly. But I lasted long enough as an editor to discover just how badly many of the college-schooled classes wrote--social scientists perhaps the worst, but plenty of others badly enough. Most of these writers were schooled before the educational fads of the 1960s, by the way.

    Yes, this was in America, which I know some of you regard as the land of Yahoos. You are welcome to think so if you wish. But consider that I could find any number of middle-aged Americans to decry the writing of the American young, and ask yourself whether this might be a parallel case.


    At least they're not career criminals.

    Unlike BT's Board of Directors.

  53. Ian 14

    Weak thinking

    It's a shame that Sir Mike has the gall to criticise other's

    intellectual performance when his own critical thinking

    is so poor.

    He rails against educational standards, based on apprenticeship applications and then says:

    "The politicians have a huge amount to answer for over the past 50 to 60 years.”

    But surely the apprenticeship applicants will all be under 20 years old so where do the other 30 to 40 years come from?

    He goes on to say:

    "If you look at Scotland, it has the highest graduation rate [in the UK], but lower productivity than northeast England."

    Which suggests that he's ignorant of the complete lack of correlation between where people are born, where they go to university and where they eventually end up working.

    Although I like my employees to have good English skills, if given a choice between good English and good critical thinking I'd choose the latter any day.

  54. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    At last! Something good from BT!

    See, the problem is that Uni's tend to have a whole lot of influence as a single body and as single organisations that, say, accountancy does not have.

    A firm of accountants might say: give us those A level finishers, the same money that UNI's get for degree courses and not only will we pay the apprentice accountants a wage we will train them in a practical, pragmatic way.

    But UK (un)civil servantry is likely to reply: No way baby! Isn't that so minister?

  55. Michael 28

    Could be worse..

    "BT's chairman Sir Mike Rake has joined Tesco and M&S in slamming standards in British schools"......

    No mention about Royal Mail or Macdonalds there, i notice?

    BTW... who or what are we being compared to?

    ..this is an emotive, semanticallly null statement if ever there was one ... unless he's using the term "standards" ironically?

    (....he's not comparing us to the...GERMANS? is he???)

  56. Peter Galbavy

    uh ?

    shirley dey kan yoos da speel chocker ?

  57. Anonymous Coward

    @accountants AC 14:52

    You're being ironic, right?

    Accuntants are the single most irresponsible body in British business; they know the price of everything, the value of nothing, and can't make anything add up. Except in the City where they are paid sufficient that the adding up adds up to whatever answer the customer wants.

    Definitely B ark.

  58. Jonathan

    i wonder

    how many people arguing that syntax and grammar should be deprecated in the English language also feel that the same should apply to... C, C++, VB, javascript etc. ?

    probably not many, and they would be perfectly correct as anythign written without such aids to understanding would be meaningless.

    they are no less important in English, French or (I am (fairly) sure) any other language.

    (i also wonder how many can end up being pedantic about coding styles, variable naming conventions etc. ?)

    without good spelling, good grammar and an understanding of punctuation what you wnd up writing is NOT English - it might be close to it but I've written the odd bit of C with the occasional (:-) ) syntax error and surprisingly the compiler has never told me "oh, you meant this variable".

    am not vouching for the complete correctness of the above, but a degree of care has been applied.

  59. Tony S

    Late to the party - but I'm travelling

    A person on the TV was ranting about a letter received from someone looking for employment.

    "It's disgraceful", the man complained - " the person has written 'I am looking for a job innit".

    A woman looked over his shoulder and gently informed him that it actually said 'I am looking for a job in IT'.


  60. A J Stiles

    This is what happens when you don't triage pupils

    The abolition of the eleven-plus has led to a secondary-modern education for everyone. We are now seeing only too clearly how one size does not fit all.

  61. Alan Barnard

    Cynical responses

    26,000 applications, 6000 'useless'.

    1) No doubt the 6000 are applying for job after job - there is someone employed at the Job Centre to make sure that they do - they probably applied for the jobs at Tesco and M&S too.

    2) BT, Tesco, and M&S are in business to make money, this is a regular whinge, they can have whoever they want if they are prepared to pay but they want graduate material at minimum wage. It is not surprising that they complain that the school-leavers are not good enough and the universities are syphoning off all the best brains.

  62. Jeff 11

    It's a numbers game

    When CVs are in huge supply - like now - you can afford to be more discriminating as a recruiter. And recent graduates rarely have even the barest trace of commercial experience, so it's down to the smaller things like presentation that will decide whether their CVs go on to the interview pile or into the bin.

    And it's accepting this sort of crap from the general population that shows us up as lazy wankers when compared to our European enemies^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hpartners.

  63. SleepyJohn

    Good job there are no Pandas in Britain

    A panda walks into a cafe. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then pulls out a gun and shoots the waiter. "Why?" groans the injured man. The panda shrugs and walks out, tossing a wildlife manual over his shoulder. The entry for "panda" reads: "Large black and white mammal native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves."

    I believe this inspired a book, which itself inspired this riveting piece in the New Yorker:

    Language certainly must be allowed to evolve, but grammatical rules are generally there for good reason. A misplaced comma can be more dangerous than a loaded gun:

    A woman, without her man, is nothing. A woman: without her, man is nothing.

    And see this:

  64. Sean Timarco Baggaley

    The hypocrisy is staggering.

    After all, BT is one of the many broadband-touting telcos who haven't understood that "Unlimited" doesn't come anywhere close to meaning what they say it means.

    And I'm not sure I agree about the literacy thing either.

    In the space of roughly a single generation, we've gone from classrooms where everything was written by hand as a matter of course, to classrooms where almost every student can probably send texts faster than their teacher could write them out longhand on the board. This is naturally going to cause some ructions and transitional issues as the old guard, used to the old ways, gradually cedes ground to new blood. (If you're one of the former, don't worry: these things happen in cycles and that new blood will be in your exact same situation soon enough.)

    SMS abbreviations make sense when sending short messages. (And kids have a long and illustrious history of making up new codes and slang terms anyway, so this is hardly new.) Twitter also has similar constraints. But how is this much different to the telegrams of old, where even the punctuation was spelled out? Or sending messages to colleagues or friends in Morse Code?

    The problem is *context*. THAT is what needs to be fixed. It's not the interface itself, but knowing *which interface to use* that matters. We need to be teaching this as a matter of course, but as teachers aren't even allowed to say "Boo!" to a goose any more, it's hardly surprising that they've had a lot of difficulty putting their point across.

    This *will* have repercussions in the future. The UK's population is ageing, but it's those same elders who were responsible for buggering up the education system (among many other things) in the first place, so they only have themselves to blame.

  65. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

    3 pages of pedantry.


    It's hammer time.

    [Cue something, anything, to murder this thread for even a few minutes.]

  66. Richard L

    Another CV Story

    I've recently been recruiting for a Senior Test Analyst.

    An agency was very enthusiastic about a candidate and, despite my aversion to recruitment agents in general, I asked them to send me his CV.

    In the first paragraph he made the claim of working with a high level of "accurancy". Word helpfully underlined this in red.

    On one level this is a simple typographical error, but if I am reviewing a dozen CVs with a view to short listing three or four candidates it is enough for me to reject it. I have no reason to think that someone who takes that little care with their CV is going to do any better in a QA type role.

  67. Tim 49

    I thought it was all scaremongering until...

    I was tagged along with some others in a group in a facebook picture at the weekend , & the following day received this comment:

    "wow piccys are good x mum looks well better now xx u with your friends look like u r at home xx "

    What more can you say?

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