A new report has concluded that the British education system is currently failing to meet the country's long-term needs and requires radical overhaul.
The report, Making Education Work, has been drawn up by an independent advisory group made up of prominent business leaders and chaired by an academic, Prof Sir Roy Anderson. It follows a six-month review of England’s education system.
It says the current system is too vulnerable to the vagaries of the electoral cycle and a long-term strategy is needed to provide the stability necessary to achieve success.A-level reform
A-levels are heavily criticised in the report, which claims they should be replaced by a new baccalaureate system.
It says the A-level curriculum needs to be broadened into a European-style system which includes the study of English, maths and the Extended Project qualification.
Basic skills such as literacy and numeracy require a renewed emphasis. Higher reasoning abilities are vitally important and should be given priority over the simple knowledge and retention of facts.
A-levels could be phased out over a period of six to eight years in order to accommodate the proposed changes, according to the report's authors.Need for a cross-party education body
According to the report, education policy changes every time a new party is elected to office, preventing the system from achieving the stability necessary for improved standards.
It calls for a new independent body to govern education policy, one which is made up of teachers, employers, higher education representatives and, importantly, political parties. The government would continue to have the ultimate responsibility for delivering and assessing the curriculum, however.
Countries that perform well in the Programme for International Student Assessment rankings have the political stability necessary to deliver a long-term education strategy, according to the report's authors.
Sir Michael Rake, Chairman of BT, said the various initiatives coordinated by different secretaries of state over the past 25 years have failed to deliver significant improvements in educational standards.Importance of interpersonal skills
New qualifications should also take into account the importance of "softer" interpersonal skills, according to the report.
These skills play an important role in improving pupils' employment prospects and are overlooked by the current curriculum.
Attributes such as team working, which play an increasingly important role in the modern jobs market, should form part of a framework of key competencies in England.Need for 'edunomic planning'
Chair of the independent advisory group Sir Roy Anderson called for a new emphasis on 'edunomic planning', which will provide clear objectives similar to those pursued by businesses.
"This new independent advisory group on the curriculum will build on the current government’s efforts to bring in a more diverse range of experts and experience into the education system, and create a long-term vision for us to work together towards in the interests of young people.
"There are also areas where we could do more to embrace the right sort of change. The group was concerned by the realisation that the English classroom and what’s taught in it has changed little in the last 60 years. While the past has much to teach us, that shouldn’t be at the expense of keeping a keen eye on the future."
The report has been warmly received by a number of education organisations. Brian Lightman, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, pointed out that successful countries have long-term education strategies in place and there is no reason why this should not be true of the UK.
Mary Bousted, from the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, also gave the report an enthusiastic welcome, pointing out that political interference has long been a cause of disquiet among those in teaching jobs, the BBC reports.
She greeted the report's call for an emphasis on interpersonal skills and a focus on emotional maturity with approval.
However, the government defended its record, with the Department for Education (DfE) saying a wide range of experts was consulted as part of its preparation for the new curriculum.
The Tech Level qualifications recently announced by the DfE and designed to lead to careers in engineering, accounting, IT and construction were also drawn up under consultation with leading international companies.
Posted by Charlotte Michaels