Although I don’t fully subscribe to the utilitarian notion that the purpose of education is to prepare the next generation for work, it remains a significant consideration in the minds of most governments. The link between educational effectiveness and competitive economic advantage is always a factor in government thinking and President Obama and the Prime minister have both referred to this in recent speeches.
Over a decade ago I was delivering presentations into schools talking about the changing face of the world of work and how some of the cherished notions that schools operated around regarding progression from education to the world of work were being made increasingly redundant. My presentations to parents, teachers and students focussed on the rapid pace of change in the workplace.
I suggested that the notion of the retirement age was clearly redundant as the population lived to a greater age, both personal preference and the social cost of an ageing population would make retirement at 60 untenable. I suggested that a curriculum based on subject knowledge would not be sufficient to span a working life and that the working life of most people would increasingly incorporate redundancy and the need to re-invent oneself to service what became known as a portfolio career.
The suggestion that the future curriculum would need to be more focussed on attitudes, behaviours and competences, rather than subject based knowledge meant that the arrangement of secondary education into subject silos was detrimental to the coherence of learning required of future lifelong learners.
I remember the reaction of most headteachers being a polite thank you for a provocative talk, but that they felt the tone and content of the vision was rather alarmist… one teacher commented, “Whither Shakespeare.” I’m not sure if that was meant as a question or am exclamation. However much of these elements, which were potential changes in 2000, have come to pass, much faster than I had anticipated. Indeed I’m now living the dream/nightmare that is the portfolio career!
To see the parameters of the changing world of work, I recommend this RSA Animate talk by Dave Coplin…