Change Gonna Come

Recently, the CBI (Confederation of British Industry) released a statement criticising the current education system in the UK for being too focussed on testing, results and tables. The result of this, they claim, is that children are not learning the skills that are required of them by the world of work.

The backlash consisted of many and various claims that a knowledge-based curriculum is essential, and that many other countries who apply this system have proven it’s value and effectiveness.

A regular component of my conference talks on education is a segment where I show a list (compiled from many independent surveys) of the top ten attributes that businesses say they are looking for in future employees. Here it is:

Like the CBI, my point is always that these competencies are under-valued and under-taught in our current education system.

However, it’s tricky to teach any of them in isolation - you need a context within which you can offer the opportunity to practise each and every aptitude. 

The go-to area for developing everything on this list is the arts, but as we know, all things creative are well out of favour with our Ministry of Education. Like many of you, I think this is an appalling error in judgement. But all is not lost.

Even if you cleave to the traditional knowledge-based curriculum, and the current focus on STEM subjects, it’s possible to advance expertise in these top ten skills through the way the curriculum is taught. Giving children more opportunities to learn independently, to organise themselves within group tasks, to generally behave more like they will be asked to do in any workplace, can only be beneficial. 

When asked, youngsters themselves are crying out for some applicable context in their learning. They want to learn about the issues they will have to deal with (and are perhaps already starting to have to negotiate) in real life. 

Can we not incorporate teaching about tax, about housing, about credit, about starting a business, about benefits, or just all the daily binds of the daily grind? It’s much more interesting and easy to learn things when you can understand the application. 

A change is well overdue, and more and more voices are joining the call for a major shift. Surely it’s only a matter of time before we reach the tipping point.