A levels and GCSEs are British qualifications. They are studied worldwide. However, ex-British Prime Minster Tony Blair has put forward that these qualifications should be scrapped.
Tony Blair, speaking for the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, is calling for a radical change to the English education to help education-leavers to cope more in the real world. A world where automation and artificial intelligence are increasing important.
The Institute for Government has replied that while the system isn’t perfect, that it ignores the benefits of the existing system and the costs involved.
However, in Blair’s Report – Ending the Big Squeeze on Skills: How to Future Proof Education in the UK – he recommends –
- Removing the existing exams system
- Replacing the exams with continuous assessment
He argues that the current exam system relies on –
- Passive forms of learning
- Direct instruction
What is passive learning?
Passive learning is learning where the student receives information from their teacher. The student listens or reads the material without thinking about it or reviewing it.
An example – learning the words to a poem, but not really understanding what the poem actually means.
What is active learning?
Active learning encourages students to take a more active and proactive role in their education. They may take part in activities such as –
- Group discussions
Active learning is not about sitting there and listening to what your teacher says, then regurgitating it for an exam. It is about really understanding that learning and using the learning in the real world.
Future Proofing Education
This is what Tony Blair means when he says about future proofing education. Future proofing means trying to ensure that a person can cope with the challenges that they come across during their lives. So future proofing education means that students should be able to use their knowledge to problem solve and undertake tasks in the real world.
We want students who enter the world of work able to use their learning in a practical way. They can put what they learn in education into practice. Education should make people think .
Think of it in this way.
A student sits in a classroom and is told how to drive a car.
A student has driving lessons, sitting in the car and learning how to handle it, to deal with problems etc.
In the classroom, they have been told the theory about driving a car, but that doesn’t mean that in the real world they actually could drive a car.
As mentioned above, the report suggests that the exams should be replaced with continuous assessment, the idea of incremental changes where the student, and teachers, can see how the student is improving.
In an exam situation, the student takes the whole course, then takes an exam at the end. They pass or fail. But not everyone is good at exams. Some students may understand the work very well, but really struggle with exams.
With continuous assessment, the student is being assessed throughout the course.
Let’s consider an example –
Student A goes to college, studies horticulture for a year, then takes an exam. They are a great student, but they fail.
Student B goes to college, studies horticulture for a year by continuous assessment. They start at the basics and gradually improve and develop their skills and knowledge. They come out of the course with the knowledge and skills they need in the real world, to take on a career in horticulture.
Continuous assessment ensures that the students has learned the knowledge and skills they need on one topic, before they move on to the next one.
The 4 Cs
The Blair Report also emphasises the importance of students learning about the 4 Cs –
- Critical thinking
- Collaborative problem solving
These four skills are all soft skills.
What are Soft Skills?
Soft skills are skills that employees need to help them to succeed in the workplace. They help us to communicate with others, work as a team, follow instructions, get the job done on time, have good time keeping etc.
Critical thinking, creativity, problem solving and communication are all essential skills for the workplace. The importance of soft skills is being increasingly recognised.
The changes that Tony Blair’s report mentions are not just recommended changes to the English education system, they are also changes that we are seeing throughout the world. Educators and education specialists are increasingly recognising that the world is changing and we need to equip students with the skills to cope in the modern world. The modern world that is also changing frequently. We do not need to teach students how to deal with the here and now. We need to equip them with the skills to future proof their career, to change with the changing world.
What do we see from the Tony Blair report?
- The need for active learning
- The need for continuous assessment
- Building on knowledge and skills
- The importance of learning soft skills
- Future proofing careers
The ACS Distance Education Experience
ACS DE was established in 1979 focussing solely on online learning and distance education. But we have also developed our courses to ensure that we are future proofing students’ careers from the very start.
We develop our courses to encourage students to really think about what they are learning. We do not expect students to memorise and rote learn. We expect students to really think about their online learning and how they will put into practice in the real world.
Throughout our courses, we have assignments, set tasks and self-assessment questionnaires for students to complete.
For example, in a 100 hour course, we may have 10 lessons. At the end of each lesson, there will be a multichoice questionnaire and an assignment that the student will submit to their tutor for marking and feedback. The tutor is there to help and guide the student to improve their knowledge and skills in the particular topic they are studying.
Building on Knowledge and Skills
This links to the next point on building on knowledge and skills. Our courses are developed to encourage students to work through from start to finish – lesson 1 through to the end. This may sound obvious, but some students like to jump about moving from lesson to lesson. By working from lesson 1 onwards, the student is building on the knowledge and skills in each lesson. There is continuous improvement in their knowledge and skills.
We have recognised the specialist skills, such as permaculture, technical writing, horticulture, business etc, but we also recognise the importance of our students developing soft skills, by offering courses, such as –
- Time management
- Change management
- Stress Management
But we also build soft skills into our courses, encouraging students to consider –
- How they communicate
- Undertaking PBLs – problem based learning
We develop our courses to ensure that the students –
- Develop the specialist skills that they need for a particular career
- Develop the soft skills that they need to do well in that career
- Learn through continuous assessment and develop and improve their skills through learning
- Are future proofing their careers
The World is Changing
The world is changing and education is changing alongside it.
- Would you like to offer courses that help your students to future proof their careers?
- Would you like to offer courses that have been developed by distance learning and online learning experts?
- Are you an existing education provider who would like to expand the courses you offer?
- Or would you like to set up your own online school?
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