14-19 green paper - implications for business and economics, The
Over the last fifteen years, educationalists with an interest in the 14 - 19 age group have experienced both a renaissance (under TVEI) and also a dark age (in the heyday of the National Curriculum). The issue of 'what to do' between the years of 14 and 19 is now firmly back on the agenda, and I was particularly interested in the DfES Consultation Document '14 - 19: Extending Opportunities, Raising Standards' published in February 2002.
The 14 - 19 phase is the only age group that I have ever taught and I suspect that the same is true for many teachers of Business and Economics. If there is any group of subject teachers to whom the Green Paper has anything to say, then it should be ours,
The Green Paper provides a useful tour of many of the current issues in 14 - 19 education. The key challenges are identified as:
* Building an education system in which everyone has confidence
* Ensuring that all have a chance of a sound education ie engage the disaffected
* Matching the needs of the knowledge economy with appropriate training
* Promoting education alongside character development (citizenship, enterprise, innovation, teamwork, creativity and flexibility).
It is difficult to be anything other than empathetic towards the above challenges, and it is easy to believe in their importance, not least because they embrace the aspirations of the current administration with its large parliamentary majority and, in many people's estimation, a reasonable chance of being re-elected. The government is particularly keen for parents to choose to send their children to a local comprehensive school, rather than having many of them feel they have to pay for their children's education. Widespread parental confidence in 14 - 19 state education is therefore imperative.
When it comes to engaging the disaffected and matching the needs of the economy with appropriate training, a great deal of emphasis is being placed on vocational education. Vocational education is hardly new but at the present time in many schools it has a low profile and, moreover, low esteem. The Green Paper acknowledges this and considers at some length the measures that are needed to create the desired changes in outlook and standing.
Another 'big idea' is flexibility of learning. One of the really exciting proposals involves looking at the 14 - 19 phase as a whole and not as two lumps of GCSE followed by 'A' Level (or a GNVQ Intermediate followed by AVCE). The notion of everyone benefiting from taking courses at the same age irrespective of their personal circumstances is not realistic. The Green Paper therefore proposes a more flexible curriculum that is more responsive to students' needs. This may involve:
* more vocational opportunities
* beginning advanced level study earlier
* some students taking more time to reach a given level of attainment
* having all pathways lead to at overarching award at age 18/19.
The Green Paper acknowledges the implications of the above ideas, and notably the need for:
* high status vocational offers
* good, reliable information and strong pastoral support
* a positive response to those with special needs and other potentially excluded groups
* closer collaboration between schools, colleges and training providers
* flexible access and delivery through ICT and e-learning.
The key proposals are summarised on the next page.
STRENGTHS OF THE PROPOSALS FROM A BUSINESS AND ECONOMICS PERSPECTIVE
I would suggest that actually raising awareness of the 14 - 19 phase is a major strength. The debate has been developed and although there are many missing pieces in the current jigsaw the issues are being discussed.
Promoting the diversification of GCSE achievement through a vocational curriculum is another major strength. It could of course threaten Business Studies because there will be many other potential players in the vocational curriculum, but it must also present development opportunities. These should be welcomed, particularly given the aspiration to raise the status of vocational education.
The proposal to change performance tables is a necessary condition for changing the curriculum. It will enable Business Studies teachers to introduce non-GCSE courses that may be more appropriate to their pupils. The recognition that one size does not fit all is important. Also to be welcomed is the increased flexibility not only with regard to what is learned but also with regard to the time taken to learn. Such flexibility may not be feasible in all situations but it represents a philosophy that is different from that of the recent past.
WEAKNESSES OF THE PROPOSALS
There are several key areas not addressed in the proposals. The Green Paper does not address the difficulties associated with the intransigence and influence of university admissions officers, who may be reluctant to recognise and accept a Graduation Certificate or anything other than 3/4 'A2' passes at high grades.
The paper also fails to consider 'Curriculum 2000', and it is silent on the issue of changing the balance between external and internal assessment.
The Green Paper can be criticised for not offering sufficient detail. The aspiration for high status vocational qualifications is all very fine, but there is little indication of how this will be achieved considering the attitudes of many in the community. For the most part the proposals are at a very early stage and will need considerable work if they are to become operational.
The Green Paper provides some exciting proposals for the education of 14 - 19 year olds. It is clear that the Government is serious about change and it is likely that a White Paper will follow later this year that will focus on the 14 - 19 phase. I am optimistic about the opportunities that the Green Paper offers to Business and Economics students and teachers although there will need to be major shift in attitude (and resources) if the vision set out is to be realised.