Reforming the Education Mantra

The mantra “Education, education, education” is burnt onto the minds of many of those who followed the news in the run-up to the 1997 election campaign – it was Tony Blair’s main priority, to bolster the educational standards of the children and schools within the country – an admirable aspiration it must be said. 14 years on and Mr Cameron and Mr Gove seem to have the same aspirations but vary slightly in application. Mr Blair brought in tuition fees for Universities, GCSE results improved and Sure Start was launched. Mr Cameron is using these as a foundation and rightly so, but focusing not just on grades but on ‘worthy’ grades, it could even be said that the new mantra is “Employability, employability, employability!”.

Exam Paper

Will the Coalition's education reforms bear fruit?

In 2014, new criteria are being brought in for GCSE tables and many vocational qualifications (that can amount to up to 6 whole GCSEs) will no longer be included. They are seen as an easy option and it is believed that many schools encourage weaker students to take them in attempts to maintain league table results as well as adding to the student’s CV as they have always been seen as ‘equivalent’ qualifications.

Nonetheless, other prestigious qualifications will be recognised which have not had status within these tables before such as Grade 6 or above music exams which can only be a benefit.

The EBacc (English Baccalaureate) has also caused commotion recently but it has now been announced that the subjects will remain as announced, despite some opposition as to the lack of breadth involved. The EBacc will be awarded to students who gain 5 A* to C grades in the following: Maths, English, two Sciences, a language and either Geography or History.  This is to encourage the qualifications that are most employable and are most necessary in our future work force as well as to be more comparable to other countries in terms of educational achievement.

Alongside this, university tuition fees are being raised and whilst it has been emphasised that this is to do with the recession and a funding gap, many are beginning to wonder if there were other motives. With higher fees (many going to be between £8,000 and £9,000 a year) students may think twice about just taking a degree for interest. It is likely to result in certain degree students being seen as getting more for their money depending on their subject. Certain “mickey mouse” courses – although I personally detest the term – are likely to be seen as not worth the debt they incur. Subsequently this is likely to impact subject choice and result in a more employable work force with graduates having degrees is the most employable subjects.

It seems unlikely that our intelligent leaders did not foresee this consequence and that it may have been a hugely influential factor when making recent policy decisions. Mr Blair never managed to achieve his 50% of students becoming graduates aspiration but with all future students being educated or trained up until the age of 18, more students will need degrees to stand out from the crowd. I believe that post-graduate degrees will consequently be on the rise with the best candidates feeling the need to spend the extra time and expense in order to achieve a worthwhile and well-paid graduate job at the end of their education.

The reformation of the educational mantra is nearly complete in the UK, less than 18 months after the Coalition gained office, the plans are in motion, the policies have been written and the country’s educational system is rapidly trying to come to terms with the new ways in which they will be judged. Whilst neither party promoted the mantra during the election process, it is clear that education is still at the top of the political agenda, and rightly so, as the intellectual ability of our successors is at stake. What could be more important than that?


Posted on July 25, 2011, in Coalition Government, Comment, Conservative Party, Labour Party, Party Politics and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. You basically outline my own logic when it came to my decision to study for a Masters. As wonderful as it was I fear I entered the job market at entirely the wrong time! One thing I would like to add therefore is how important experience can be. All students should grasp any opportunity to combine their degrees with real world experience in the work place. If there are 10 people going for a job with first class degrees then the experience you have gained over a summer or two doing work experience (unpaid or otherwise) could really tip the scales in your favour.

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