Education and childcare minister Elizabeth Truss has called for people to jettison 'limiting beliefs' about education to realise her ambition for Britain to be the "enterprise capital of Europe".
In a speech given at the University of Oxford, Ms Truss identified a number of mistaken notions about the subject of education, which are holding back attainment. She termed these notions 'limiting beliefs'.
One of these limiting beliefs is that some people are not academic; that they are innately incapable of achieving academic success. She compared this with the notion that some people are unable to drive.
Perseverance should be encouraged, she claimed, particularly in subjects such as maths which have the potential to lead to high-earning careers.
Another 'limiting belief' is the idea that employment is a zero-sum game - that there is a fixed number of good jobs and that many people are currently overqualified for the jobs they do.
Ms Truss claimed that, on the contrary, in a globalised economy good jobs are attracted to areas with highly skilled populations. Combined with flexible labour markets, good education enables a country to grow.
Britain should strive to emulate countries such as Germany and China, which do not believe in leaving children behind. Germany has responded to lower-than-expected PISA rankings in 2000 by ensuring all children, even those in the vocational system, study core academic subjects. By 2012, the reforms had paid dividends, leading to a vast improvement in the rankings.
The government is to focus particularly on maths provision in an attempt to match standards in China.
"Those who have not succeeded in obtaining a C in English and maths will continue to study the subjects to that level. And there will be new core maths qualifications starting in 2015 - for students who have achieved a grade C at GCSE, but who don’t want or can’t take A level maths," she commented.
Vocational education should not come at the expense of academic attainment; in fact the two are complementary. Ms Truss claimed the government's reforms are already achieving success and that Britain would be able to raise its education standards to become the best in the world.
Posted by Tim Colman