Is education failing the test?
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The education system is under constant scrutiny, especially in the light of recent GCSE and A level reforms. Of course these reforms were designed to raise standards, but how can this be reconciled with the aim of ensuring that pass rates do not dramatically decline? And how should Universities judge potential students in the light of so much change?
Underlying these questions is a more fundamental issue of what we require of education. The advent of universal education, was implemented primarily to provide a sufficiently literate and numerate workforce for industrial expansion. And University fees were similarly linked to employability – justified by the notion that graduates earn more than non-graduates. So, should we judge the success of the education system by its ability to improve employability and earnings, or should education have less pragmatic, perhaps more idealistic, aims to do with social, cultural and philosophical ideas? Or to put this in practical terms, are we sending too many people to University, or is it a social good to have as many people as possible educated to a higher level, even if it doesn’t help them gain better employment?
If we don’t have political agreement about the purpose of education, isn’t it likely that education policy will always be unclear? And without clear policy objectives, isn’t education bound to fail the test?