Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Sleepwalking to oblivion : terminal effects of policy drift

Most government policy starts off as a research substantiated and well intended legislative directive aimed at creating a significant societal shift.   Significant events in political history such as the creation of the National Health Service or the abolition of the 11 plus were all aimed at creating a fairer society and one based on meritocracy and egalitarianism spirit.
However, the enactment of policy without substantive reviews or updating over time can significantly impact on its intended effect.   Following repeated tinkering and amendments as the result of self-interest pressure groups and lobbyists, the original policy is no longer fit for purpose.  
The UK education system has been held to ransom for over thirty years by all political parties hoping to buy votes and promote rhetoric and dogma such as the abolition of grammar school for no substantive policy effect.   Thus failure to launch a truly comprehensive education system that promoted equal opportunity for all has been allowed to drift to one of bereft of aspiration and aims for the lowest common denominator.  The recent promotion of Lord Baker for the revival of technical schools is an attempt to recover past glory.   Yet it is misplaced.   The real problem lies in the corrosive nature of policy drift and absence of ownership of its consequences.
Policy drift has allowed poor management structures within the school system to deflect comprehensive education into a system seeking to provide opportunity for the educationally poorest in society while reducing opportunities for the most gifted.   Leadership failures both in faculties of education and in school management have resulted in a drift to inclusion at all costs rather than providing opportunity for all to achieve their best in the timeframe they need to achieve their qualifications and skills.   As a result we have a large proportion of disenfranchised school children and students who are failing to achieve not because they are not talented, rather they are being forced to study subjects that offer them no satisfaction or reward.   Combine this with poor teaching pedagogy, lack of vocational teaching skills and fatal policy drift at local and central government levels, you have a recipe for disaster and the perfect storm for an educational dark age for Britain.
It is time for the silent majority to voice their disillusion with education. The devaluing of university degrees, the lack of aspiration and the absence of role models that champion the benefits of a good education rather than the current attitude that celebrity is a perceived route for the many which in reality is an opportunity for the few.  Paradoxically, we have drifted our way into an elitist culture while thinking we are celebrating equality of opportunity.
Educational Policy requires an unyielding political bravery to review what the country requires now and to bring forward a radical agenda that will allow those good at technical skills to progress to their best ability while those capable of academic progress do so to their best ability.  It is time to stop dumbing down and celebrate elitism both technical and academic.   The German Ausbildungsberufetrade system and their Berufsschule or vocational schooling system has delivered an effective dual educational system to support the needs of the German economy.
Where to now for UK plc?  Oblivion or a new egalitarian entrepreneurial society.             

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