March 11, 2014

The cult of university, Ctd Michael Gove and Matthew Hancock speeches

Two speeches to look at. Firstly, Michael Gove's speech at McLaren Technology Centre, Woking, Surrey about the future of vocational education. Secondly, Matthew Hancock's (@matthancockmp) speech at the BBC's 'You're Hired' conference, launching the National Apprenticeship Week 2014.

Speaking at McLaren, where educational and technical innovation meet, his goal was to talk about the relationship between education and the world of work. He said:
"If young people are to be prepared for that radically changing world of work, we need a plan to change our education system - and to secure their future. In particular, we need to end the artificial and damaging division between the academic and the practical."
What Michael Gove called "the apartheid at the heart of our education system." More:
"And we need to ensure that practical, technical and vocational education is integrated with academic learning to make both more compelling for all students in our schools, and more valuable in the new labour market."
On jobs that don't yet exist, Michael Gove said:
"How can we prepare young people for jobs that don’t yet exist in industries that haven’t yet been invented in a world changing faster than any of us can predict? And how can we ensure that these changes - whose ramifications will affect the whole shape of our economy and our society - can be harnessed to make our economy overall stronger and our society fairer? The answer is by ensuring we implement all the elements of our long-term economic plan - and, critically, by pressing ahead with our reforms to improve schools."
A main section within the speech was entitled, 'Bringing together thinking and making':
"For centuries since the Renaissance, dominant education models have had a strict separation between, first, what is regarded as learning and, second, training people to make things. This separation has helped to generate - and perpetuate - class divisions. It has, in societies like our own, encouraged people to think in terms of intellectual castes - thinkers or makers, artists or designers - those happiest in the realm of the conceptual and those who prefer the hard and practical.
Now, thanks to technological developments and groundbreaking innovators, this is changing. We can now reunite making things with the training of the intellect." More:
"Sadly, however, we’ve been failing to provide our children with the opportunities to think and make anew in this way. For years now we’ve introduced students to computers at school through an undemanding - indeed, frankly dull - ICT curriculum. It taught students how to fill in spreadsheets and prepare slideshows, how to use applications which were already becoming obsolete - rather than enabling them to see how they could create new applications, by offering them the chance to code, to let their imaginations roam, to build their own future."
Here's an important bit:
"From this September, however, we will be teaching every child in the country how to code and programme, how to master algorithms and design their own apps, through our new computing curriculum."
However, as I noted here in my 'Closing the skills gap' series, this will not apply to Northern Ireland. I also noted that the Northern Ireland executive is weak on STEM here. Gove continued:
"It’s been drawn up by industry experts alongside teachers and academics. And it’s unique among major economies. As Eric Schmidt of Google has said, this has made England a world leader - other countries are now considering how to follow our lead, including those ahead of us in the PISA tables.
The next main section was, 'Elevating the practical to the level of the intellectual.' He said:
"It was because I wanted to take head-on the idea that practical learning could never be as rigorous as academic that I and my colleague John Hayes commissioned Professor Alison Wolf - Britain’s leading expert on practical education - to review how those subjects were taught, funded and assessed. 
We commissioned Alison right at the start of our time in government - long before we embarked on changes to the rest of the curriculum. 
Alison’s report - published 3 years ago, to the day - made the case, compellingly, for proper equivalence between the practical and technical and the academic. 
That is why we changed the funding of education for students between the ages of 16 and 18 to make it equal for all, whatever qualifications and courses they took - overturning a status quo which favoured the purely academic."
He continued:
"We’re ending the apartheid between the academic and vocational - and giving every single young person in the country the best possible start to their future, whatever that future may be.
The last main section was, 'Bringing together the worlds of learning and working':
"We also need business to provide more opportunities for students to learn about the world of work directly from those who can speak with enthusiasm and passion about their companies and careers.
Super-critical point:
"For young people reflecting on which career path to follow no information is as valuable, no inspiration so powerful as the testimony of those at the front line of business. That is why the new careers guidance produced by my colleague Matt Hancock is all about cutting out the middle man and getting inspirational speakers in front of students to spark their ambitions. Students can’t aspire to lives they’ve never known. So we need business people to visit schools, engage and inspire."
That's what the CBI said to Northern Ireland, something I covered here. More:
"Initiatives like Robert Peston’s Speakers for Schools and Miriam González Durántez’s Inspiring the Future: Inspiring Women are superb models. But every business should be engaging with its local schools and colleges - offering speakers and competing to inspire the next generation."
And that inspiration should feed through directly to the offer of work experience. Furthermore, Michael Gove said on BBC Newsnight (3.iii.2014):
"It’s an English problem that we’ve not valued the practical and the technical in the same way we’ve valued the academic... We had a damaging view in this country that success, narrowly defined as academic success, is only available to a limited number... I don’t think that there’s anything wrong, there’s a lot that’s admirable, about saying that you want to experience the world of work [instead of going to university]."
Gove said that apprenticeships can be as good if not better than a university degree:
"For many young people, an apprenticeship is a superior option to going to university because it provides you not only with an experience of the workplace, not just with an income, but also with a level of intellectual challenge, greater than that of some universities."
My blog on apprentice Phillipa who said the very thing here. Vince cables November 2012 speech on apprenticeships here. I covered it here on Ambitious minds here. My note to Sir David Bell. Spectator man proposal. Also read the Richard Review of apprenticeships here.

Matthew Hancock (@matthancockmp) speech

In full here.

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