Schools in England should focus on better preparing pupils for work, including skills that will allow them to thrive in a world increasingly shaped by automation and artificial intelligence.
According to a report from the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, the education system is too focused on direct instruction and memorisation, but to flourish at work students will need to develop the “four Cs” – critical thinking, creativity, communication and collaborative problem-solving.
It criticises the focus on “high stakes” exams, which means that schools focus on teaching pupils to pass their tests rather than developing skills they need in the labour market of tomorrow.
The report, Ending the big squeeze on skills: how to futureproof education in England, suggests that the cirriculum should be revised and more sophisticated modes of assessment should be introduced.
Skills and qualifications
Technology should be used to help pupils grasp the basics more quickly, which would help free up time for schools to focus on developing more complex skills being demanded by employers.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Sir Tony Blair said: “While there is a place for [GCSEs and A levels], we cannot rely on them alone: they only measure certain skills, they do not always do this accurately, and they invite narrow teaching styles aimed at passing tests rather than building other key aptitudes.
“We have analogue learning for a digital age: a paper-based system that revolves around snapshot judgments instead of assessing whether schools are preparing young people for the future they face. In the meantime, some of the world’s top performers are forging ahead.”
Recommended reforms include:
- scrapping GCSEs and A levels and replacing them with a new qualification at age 18 that would include multiple forms of continuous assessment
- establishing an expert commission to reform the national curriculum and base it on minimum proficiencies for numeracy, literacy, science and, with time, digital skills
- introducing a statutory requirement for all schools, including academies, to follow the core of a newly reformed national curriculum (numeracy, literacy, science and digital skills).
Meanwhile, data from the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education suggests that more needs to be done to improve the outcome of T levels in digital subjects. Only 25.9% of students who undertook a digital course achieved higher grades and 10% did not complete the full course.
Around 1,000 students who started their T Level in 2020 have received results for the first wave of T Level subjects: Education and Childcare; Design, Surveying and Planning for Construction; and Digital Production, Design and Development.
From September 2022 around 175 further education providers will offer T Levels.