Education is more than knowledge alone
A new Education Commission should set clear vision for English schools
CBI President Paul Drechsler CBE will call on policymakers to make education in England about more than results and rote learning, and prioritise teaching that encourages thoughts, questions, creativity and teamworking.
In a speech to the Association of School and College Leaders in Birmingham, Paul will say that education’s power is to give people not just what they need to operate in today’s workplace, but the spirit of enquiry that allows them to shape tomorrow’s too.
Business leaders appreciate the difference made by brilliant teachers and leaders - how great teaching helps great people develop. They want to see all young people leaving education as well-rounded individuals.
On current education policy, Paul will say:
“Teachers’ jobs are not just difficult because the world is changing, it’s also made more difficult by years of moving the goal posts in public policy. Those failures have culminated in today’s debate between the extremes of rigorous testing on the one hand, and the rounded development of a young person on the other.
“It’s a false dichotomy – and one set in the context of our schools system, where not enough money is allocated in public budgets. It’s time to reset the debate. End the parade of government announcements that make a good headline but don’t make a jot of difference on the big issues.
“Of course, academic achievement matters. But alone, it’s not enough for the exciting world we face – in work, or in wider society. Schools have been saying this for years, and so has the CBI. Attainment and wider preparation for adult life go hand-in-hand.”
On education teaching in England, Paul will say:
“Just last week, the inventor of the PISA tests, Andreas Schleicher, said that English policymakers are reacting to his test results in a different way to other nations. In other countries, policymakers are trying to improve performance by encouraging students to take responsibility for their own learning.
“The OECD are clear that we are now doing more rote learning than almost anywhere else in the world. Yes, times tables are important. But if memorising facts is all students are doing, there’s much they are missing out on.
“It doesn’t have to be like this. Singapore, Finland and the best schools in the US all show it doesn’t have to be done this way. There, education has a clear objective, with clear standards on core subjects, clear lines of appropriate accountability, and all based on developing the whole person.
“They’ve had a healthy, open conversation about what they want from their educational systems. Not a debilitating culture-war-of-attrition dragging on since the 1970s.
“Let’s dump the ideology - no more fixation on school structures and exam reform. It is time for a national, rational debate on how we help our young people succeed. And then let’s reform the curriculum to deliver the results we need.”
On what can be done to improve education, Paul will say:
“It sounds simple. But here’s what worries me. Perhaps our politicians are too entrenched. Perhaps the ideological commitments hold too firm a grip. Perhaps old habits die hard. We should take ownership - let’s persuade our politicians to set up a new Education Commission.
“This Commission could bypass the turf wars. It should have a broad membership - educational leadership, businesses, young people, parents and politicians – people who understand education and want our country to succeed.
“Let’s start basing decisions in education on the evidence. To create consensus on what we want from our schools and colleges and to give them the support, encouragement and resources they need to deliver. And let the examination system accredit this – not drive it.”
“We must have democratic accountability, but the current debate isn’t serving anyone. Not in a changing world that demands all our attention. Get this right, and we can help our young people thrive, our economy grow and our society prosper.”