Education in Britain

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Britain will be unable to harness its real intellectual potential until it can break loose from a divisive culture that should belong in the past, and can create its future elite from the nation's schoolchildren as a whole. In 1996 a radical Conservative politician argued for turning public schools into centres of excellence which would admit children solely on ability, regardless of wealth or social background, with the help of government funding. It would be a way of using the best of the private sector for the nation as a whole. It is just such an idea that Labour might find attractive, if it is able to tackle the more widespread and fundamental shortcomings of the state education system.

Further and higher education


reparation for adult life» includes training in the skills required for a job. These skills can be pitched at different levels - highly job-specific and not requiring much thought in their application, or «generalisable» and applicable to different kinds of employment.

Vocational courses are concerned with the teaching of job-related skills, whether specific or generalisable. They can be based in industry, and «open learning» techniques make this increasingly likely, although in the past, they have normally been taught in colleges of further education, with students given day release from work. Vocational training has not been an activity for schools. But some critics think that schools should provide it for non-academic pupils. One major initiative back in 1982, was the Technical and Vocational Education Initiative (TVEI) in which schools received money if they were able to build into the curriculum vocationally-related content ant activities - more technology, business studies, industry related work and visits, etc. But all this got lost in 1988 with the imposition of a National Curriculum was reformed, providing opportunities for vocational studies to be introduced at 14.

But the real changes in vocational training were to be seen outside the schools. The curriculum in colleges of further education has been closely determined by vocational examination bodies which decide what the student should be able to do in order to receive a qualification as, for example, a plumber or a hairdresser. These qualifications were pitched at different levels - from relatively low-skilled operative to higher-skilled craft and technician. Obtaining these qualifications often required an apprenticeship, with day release in a college of further education for more theoretical study.

Vocational training always has had a relatively low status in Britain. The «practical» and the «vocational» have seldom given access to university or to the prestigious and professional jobs.

Further education has traditionally been characterised by part-time vocational courses for those who leave school at the age of 16 but need to acquire a skill, be that in the manual, technical or clerical field. In all, about three million students enrol each year in part-time courses at further education (FE) colleges, some released by their employers and a greater number unemployed. In addition there have always been a much smaller proportion in full-time training. In 1985 this figure was a meagre 400,000, but by 1995 this had doubled. Given Labour's emphasis on improving the skills level of all school-leavers, this expansion will continue. Vocational training, most of which is conducted at the country's 550 further education colleges is bound to be an important component.

Higher education has also undergone a massive expansion. In 1985 only 573,000, 16 per cent of young people, were enrolled in full-time higher education. Ten years later the number was 1,150,000, no less than 30 per cent of their age group.

This massive expansion was achieved by greatly enlarging access to undergraduate courses, but also by authorising the old polytechnics to grant their own degree awards, and also to rename themselves as universities. Thus there are today 90 universities, compared with 47 in 1990, and only seventeen in 1945. They fall into five broad categories: the medieval English foundations, the medieval Scottish ones, the nineteenth-century 'redbrick' ones, the twentieth-century 'plate-glass' ones, and finally the previous polytechnics. They are all private institutions, receiving direct grants from central government.

Oxford and Cambridge, founded in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries respectively, are easily the most famous of Britain's universities. Today 'Oxbridge', as the two together are known, educate less than one-twentieth of Britain's total university student population. But they continue to attract many of the best brains and to mesmerise an even greater number, partly on account of their prestige, but also on account of the seductive beauty of many of their buildings and surroundings.

Реферат опубликован: 20/09/2009