PRESS RELEASE FROM THE INSTITUTE OF EDUCATION
Why England pays the economic price of a ‘backward’ educational system
Twenty-first century England is falling behind the developing nations of East Asia because of a backward education system shaped by 18th century ideas, says a leading academic at the Institute of Education, London.
Professor Andy Green argues that the low level of educational achievement among many young people in England, revealed last week in an OECD survey of adult skills, has its roots in the Industrial Revolution.
“This relative failure of mass education has a long history, implicating governments of all political hues, and it has deep political and cultural roots which are not amenable to quick policy fixes,” he warns.
“Successful early industrialisation, occurring with minimum state intervention and owing little to educational provision, taught the wrong lessons, including a deep complacency about the importance of skills to economic development.”
In the new and expanded edition of his acclaimed Education and State Formation, published today (24 October), Green argues that underlying all other causes of England’s educational backwardness is a deep-seated liberal individualism, with its “veneration of free markets and hostility to the state”.
The book focuses on the development of mass public education in England, France, Germany and the USA, with a substantial new chapter on Pacific Rim countries. In the other countries an intensive process of nation building drove educational development. For example, after the French Revolution, education was a means to forge a powerful vision of citizenship. In more recent times, multicultural Singapore used education to mould a diverse but unified national identity in which students feel they have a real stake in their country.
But in Britain, the state was consolidated early, and there was less incentive subsequently to use education for nation-building. England was among the last major powers in the 19th century to develop a national educational system – and the most reluctant to put it under state control, the book explains.
Green, Director of the IOE’s ESRC-funded Centre for Learning and Life Chances in Knowledge Economies and Societies (LLAKES), says that the complacency inspired by Britain’s early industrial success only became clear to those in power late in the 19th century when shortcomings in applied science and craft became a clear barrier to industrial innovation and efficiency.
But the public education system put in place at the end of the 19th century remained exceptionally fragmented and socially divided, with elitist ideas dominating secondary education, and technical and vocational training still “fatally undervalued”.
These are flaws which have never been rectified, says Green.
“Comprehensive education was introduced half-heartedly without an accompanying national curriculum and with so much organisational variation it never look like an integrated national system. It is now being dismantled. A national curriculum was not implemented until 1988, more than a century and a half after most continental nations had done so, and its impact is now being diluted.
“And since the 1980s, all governments have been determined to marketise education so that the idea of education as an essential public good is progressively undermined and the inequalities which have always been the hallmark of English education become ever deeper,” he says.
“A Select Committee in 1818 reported that ‘England is the worst educated country in Europe’ and by 1902 Prime Minister Balfour could still say that ‘England is behind all continental rivals in education.’ After the last 30 years of market liberalism, are we in danger of the same being true today?”
To interview Professor Green or for review copies of the book please contact Diane Hofkins, email@example.com / 07976 703455 or Richard Arnold, firstname.lastname@example.org / 020 7911 5464
A new and expanded edition of Education And State Formation: Europe, East Asia and The USA by Andy Green is published by Palgrave Press (£24.99). A discount is available via this flyer.
The Institute of Education is a college of the University of London that specialises in education and related areas of social science and professional practice. In the most recent Research Assessment Exercise two-thirds of the Institute’s research activity was judged to be internationally significant and over a third was judged to be “world leading”. The Institute was recognised by Ofsted in 2010 for its “high quality” initial teacher training programmes that inspire its students “to want to be outstanding teachers”. The IOE is a member of the 1994 Group, which brings together 11 internationally renowned, research-intensive universities. More at www.ioe.ac.uk
Centre for Learning and Life Chances in Knowledge Economies and Societies (LLAKES)
This ESRC-funded Research Centre investigates the role of lifelong learning in promoting economic competitiveness and social cohesion, and in mediating the interactions between the two. Key areas of research include: i) the social and cultural foundations of learning, knowledge production and transfer, and innovation, within the context of a changing economy, and ii) the effects of knowledge and skill distribution on income equality, social cohesion and competitiveness.
It has a programme of multi-disciplinary and mixed method research which addresses these issues at the level of the individual life course, through studies of city-regions and sectors in the UK, and through comparative analysis across OECD countries. More at www.llakes.org
The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK’s largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. It supports independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC’s total budget for 2012-13 is £205 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes. More at www.esrc.ac.uk