There’s a rather good report on the state of Britain in the Economist this week – but doing the work I do I am particularly interested in the bit on ‘Clever stuff’ which describes the renewed attempt at coming to grips with the ‘parity of esteem’ debate on academic and ‘vocational’ learning. However, in doing so the article really misses the point about what the Diplomas are all about. They’re not in the first instance to ‘boost skills and encourage teenagers to stay on at school’ (although this may very well be an additional positive outcome of a new and exciting curriculum offer), but first and foremost these Diplomas must provide the high quality choice that is available elsewhere on the continent: a route of learning that mixes academic and applied learning (vocational education in the positive sense of the word), it’s not another vocational, job related ‘course’ as the article implies. Unless clever Economist journalists understand the fundamental difference between another vocational ‘course’ and a choice for all ability kids (including the ones that are really clever, yes!) this will become a failure, as we will be starting from the same departure point as so many times before. That sadly would mean that England once more would not able to offer its young people the opportunity to opt for education that is relevant to the world they live in, because Diplomas would be shunned by learners, their parents and cares and employers (as well as HE). If we are serious about education opportunities for young people in England, we must avoid this at all costs. That’s my rant for today…. Yes.
It may be a good idea to have a look at Thomas L. Friedman’s ‘The World is Flat’: to compete with the rest of the world in a new global order, people will need to have the skills to complete at ALL levels with the workforce across the globe, we have got to leave the ‘A-level as gold standard’ grail and become real in offering young people skills to compete with the rest of the world, that’s what Diploma’s are about: giving young people the skills to understand the world of work (NOT a paticular job), and become employable at all levels, able to compete with their peers across Europe and the rest of the world.