Our teaching resources are primarily geared to provide children with the requisite skills for adulthood. But if the UK continues its fall from grace as a world leader, educationally and commercially, should we reflect this change in status in the emphasis of the national curriculum? Britain is currently sliding down the OECD educational league tables. Whereas China was top in science, reading and maths Britain languished in 16th, 25th and 28th places.
This is not intended to be a knock at the government or scaremongering. The potential of a tectonic shift in our medium term fortunes is high, but this is nothing new nor are we the only country affected. Our children will not thank us for equipping them in school for a world that, currently, no longer exists. The key now is to recognise this trend and plan our educational programmes accordingly.
Ibn Khaldrun, a 14th century Tunisian historian wrote about the rise and fall of societies. How they are born, flourish and decay. Khaldrun explained that a tough hungry society has a ruthless edge that can overrun other more settled culture. Their empire builds to the point when they too become fat and complacent. And at that point they become vulnerable to incursions from other hungrier and more ruthless societies. A development on the survival of the fittest applied to civilisations rather than individuals. The cycle is repetitive and supported in history by the rise and fall of many once great nations such as the Roman Empire, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Turkey and Japan.
The cycle can repeat itself. China, once a great trading nation slipped back into obscurity before becoming hungry and re-emerging as a ruthless trading country that is now expanding rapidly. Britain in turn has entered the complacent declining phase and being overtaken by more ruthless perpetrators. Britain is increasingly becoming owned by overseas investors. Utilities, airports and banks no longer produce profits retained in the country.
What does this mean? Skills and even the location of employment will change. But our children will have to compete in a market dominated by other countries educated to a much higher standard. The educational league tables we should watch are those of the OECD. English is being increasingly adopted as the international business language and learnt as second language in overseas schools. But this will not help British children as overseas indigenous children will also have their mother tongue in the ultimate in employment selection tie breaker. British children in comparison are increasingly dropping modern foreign languages.
We need to rethink our educational programme and provide the learning resources that will gain international recognition. We may not be able to stop the commercial transfer of power but at least we can give the next generation some better options – even if they lie overseas.