One of society’s keys objectives is to educate the young. An objective established thousands of years old, yet we still fail to achieve the base criteria in providing progressive schooling that has tracked with advances in technology. Our educational and teaching resources are suffering terminal decay. In the same time we have developed systems to communicate globally in an instant for little or no cost and have achieved dramatic improvements in medical science, and can microwave an instant meal in minutes, the UK primary and secondary schooling standards have stalled.
They say change is here to stay and we have certainly seen changes in the form of teaching and educational resources in schools. The National curriculum has come and almost gone having shown little real benefit during the 25 years it has been around. Its real success perhaps has been to absorb vast tranches of cash along with teacher’s time and energy as countless educational initiatives have been introduced to shore it up. Perhaps the greatest failing of the system is, like the emperor’s new suit of clothes, no one in authority could decry its role. It has been controlled by central government under the auspices of the ever changing Educational Secretaries of State for Education. A high ranking ministerial position in the cabinet perhaps, but the number of champions who have handled the role has been its downfall. As each government is formed, or each cabinet reshuffle effected, the top job in schooling is reviewed. The Educational job is almost as a game, to be played in short bursts before someone else is tagged and takes over the lead. The tenure is short and inevitably the incumbent attempts to make a name for themselves by sorting out the problem resulting in the subsequent initiative. Long before the results can be analysed a new educational minister takes over and the process starts again. Head Teachers, teachers, parents and children become disillusioned, schooling standards falter and the UK slips another step down in the OECD world educational league table.
Currently we are in a typical state of flux. The National Curriculum is wobbling and GCSE exams are to be replaced by the English Baccalaureate, essentially reintroducing the GCE “O” level abandoned 27 years ago. Performance targets have resulted in teaching standards being manipulated through gamesmanship manoeuvres to gain the greatest number of points. No wonder if your salary and job security depends on it. Teachers have been of accused of teaching to test to focus schooling on how to answer exams rather that broadening the academic spread for children. This has spurned the enjoyment and subject interrelationship children and teachers gain from a wider curriculum. Subsequently many children have left school with exam passes but lack the benefit of a wider knowledge base.
An unacceptable level of schooling has negatively impacted employment, further education institutions and career development opportunities. The process has ill preparing students for the next educational or career stage. Secondary heads complain of the inadequate achievement of many children moving up from primary to secondary school. Their substandard ability results in an overload for secondary teachers attempting to bring such children up to specification, at worse these children will fail to thrive and slip beneath the waves.
If a child manages to successfully dodge the pitfalls of our educational system, or have the luck to be educated at a good school they could gain further education within our top universities. Historically the teaching standards and educational content at our universities have had lesser academic influence from the government; possibly reflected in the global standing of their quality. But this was of course was before tuition fees were introduced. We have yet to see if government funds which track attendance levels that are now falling will create a financial ripple in university operations. The resultant paradigm shift could create fatal disruption in the quality and standing of our academic institutions.
If finally a student manages to gain a good degree from a good university we should be able to relax in the knowledge that such a achievement will benefit the UK economy. But here the final irony occurs. Around 30 per cent of top graduates are leaving the UK to seek employment overseas where the top jobs, salaries and career progression is seen to be significantly better that the UK. And after all they have endued in our schooling system – who can blame them.