Ideological Changes: Education In The UK

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In this essay I will be discussing the ideological changes that have affected the United Kingdom's education from 1944 onwards. During this essay I will aim to bring forth the most prominent idea's that sparked debate that would eventually change a variety of different perceptions. These changes would eventually be the roots and origins of what we see now in the system of education. Firstly I plan to discuss the historical background of each individual ideological change and thereafter discuss its reception, application, success or failure and then on to how this is relevant to education today. Some ideologies won't necessarily be seen prevalent today, but nonetheless I will discuss the foundations they laid in order for other stronger ideas to come across as acceptable. With this pattern, the question will come to a close with a conclusion as to how this timeline of events have either largely shaped education or whether or not we should be accounting for something else within the frameworks.

I will begin by setting the scene for 1944. The time was just after World War II, and many countries were repaying war effort costs amongst other large reconstructions of inner cities. Recovery was a harsh road and it was going to take a lot more to see the economy flourish like it once had. From this terrible situation a small but promising idea was born. An idea that led to people looking towards education as the answer; public education specifically was going to be utilised in the UK as the path to take for true recovery. The best way to look at the reasoning behind this is that the only way to keep the economy afloat and supported, is to 'train' people to follow their given roles within it - by educating them. This idea sprung forth the 1944 Education act that stated all secondary education will be free and compulsory up until 15 years old. This was a huge step forward as it had been almost 70 years since the 1870's Forster Act that planted the seed of relation between childhood and schooling. Therefore the 1944 Education was simply reinforcing the idea that childhood is a time of learning and knowledge attainment.

Due to the new policy put in place a system was put into place to support the notion that different students all held different amounts of potential that would translate into their future efforts. This was to be known as the tripartite system. Grammar, Technical and Secondary Modern schools were suggested as being the three types of schools that should be used. Grammar schools were going to still be seen as the best possibility for those that wanted to push further in their educational aspirations. Technical schools were supposed to be implemented for those that are more hands on and require less book work, but more expertise in specific areas of work. Secondary Modern schools took on the role as an average system where children who did not fully make it into Grammar schools could attend. The tripartite idea was put into place alongside a test that would check which school the student would attend. You could say that this exam placed a lot of pressure on the child as it was the decider in where the child would attend. This tripartite system really pushed the same idea that there are three types of people, which was also used in Plato's Utopian idea. This segregation didn't cause too much trouble yet, but we will talk about that later.

In the 1960's, education begun to herald in a new era of economic importance. For a while education had been seen as the individual's choice and it should be for their own fulfilment. Now though, it was the tool to national improvement - and thus was treated as such. A report was conducted on the tripartite system called the '1959 Crowther Report'. It implied the current system was inadequate and that a comprehensive school system should be integrated. A comprehensive school would not base its selection of pupils on the grades they received or on one specific test, but rather on a catchment area. Therefore anyone within a certain distance of that school had every right to attend it. Another suggestion put forth in the report was that the compulsory age of 15 years old was merely not enough for an average student to fully develop and that most students would leave at an early age to work. Following the report, showing just how important the state viewed education to its economy and for the best interests of the public, it raised the compulsory age to 16 - and later in the 1960's, begun working on implementing Comprehensive schools. The report begun to blow away the cloud that heavily hung over equal opportunities and unlocked the gate to discussion. It was becoming transparent that the prior system put in place was not intended to create equal opportunities but instead oppress them. Whether this was intentional or not is up for debate, but the view is that at the time - economy was yet again at the forefront of everyone's mind.

In the 1960's equal opportunities became an issue. Even though there was a clear indicator that the institution was moving towards comprehensive schooling, it still lacked a clear policy on ethnic and racial discrimination. The idea remained in debate throughout the 60's in hopes that minorities and their children would eventually share the same mind set as the white population. Unfortunately the 1983 Newsom Report would suggest otherwise - we will come to this a bit later. Without the report, it was still evident that something needed to be done. This led to standards becoming an important issue within schools and other systems surrounding it.

Even though discrimination was still an issue and thoroughly under criticism through observation and scrutiny of results, the 1970's saw a huge boost in numbers for children attending comprehensive schools. It had risen above 50%, and saw a further boost in 1975 where it had risen to a fair 65%. At this time, schooling had not only become a compulsory path for children but it had become a lifestyle for the majority. These links were becoming normalized, and the debates were not raised around children and schooling, but rather standards and equal opportunities. These debates were portrayed as a human right, that children of this era were not only entitled to education but that they were encouraged to fight for it. This is an incredible change in comparison to where we started in prior to 1944, as most children were being seen as emotionally priceless that could not be used for gain. Whereas now there was a feeling that a child's worth was becoming completely economical. This idea would soon begin to shape the education institution system itself. It especially begun to blossomed, as the 1980's saw a preference of efficiency over effectiveness.

In the 1980's we can see an incredible change in policies as parents were given more choice in how the school was being run. This and alongside the 1988 Education Act gave way for a 'little' system called the National Curriculum. At the time the national curriculum was there to fulfil a job, and that job was to efficiently produce children that were ready for the economic world. The ideal behind the curriculum was to learn as many things in a short time. The variety of skills picked up would not only help the student in their everyday life, but it would also help them pick their future career. Moulding them into an economical asset was the goal - and if the student didn't fit into the frame they would unfortunately fall behind. Exam success would be the measure of their capabilities and their motivation would be sparked from socialising amongst others taking the same path. This is the basic idea behind the curriculum - which seemed too good to be true - and it was. Many reports were carried out in the 1990's, which began to look at the student's personal satisfaction - or lack of it.

As we can see the change in ideologies are explosive and happen over such a small period of time. An important report put together by Zelizer discusses the time between the 1870's and 1930's the change in economic perception of a child to the child's role as priceless within society. This change was important as it led many more children away from factories and into ragged schools. The was a result of many different factors - but overall this innocent perception was not strong enough to hold out against the national interest. Even though we could see reports and debates against such systems, some were never truly quite heard if it wasn't going to improve efficiency. The main groups that suffered, especially with the introduction of the curriculum were children with SEN and minorities yet again. Catering to these groups was seen as useless and non-profitable for obvious reasons due to ability. This view can be portrayed in results that are returned year after year, with an obvious bias towards certain children of these groups.

I feel these events have shaped our perception of education immensely. They have created an institution that is now being criticised more than ever, and for good reason. Due to the mistakes made, we have been able to alter the system differently to suit not only the national interest, but also so that the students themselves feel satisfied and personal happy with what they are doing. Education should be an inwards journey that expands the mind and creates opportunities; it should not be limited to results of an economical profit. Ideologies will continue to change and with them so will students and those that surround them. The idea of using the institution as means of improving the country efficiently is not a bad idea at all - it's just the way in which it was tackled was poor.

Interestingly enough in the present, there is still a notion that the child is priceless - and can still be economically efficient. This split is evident through family life and school life - and yet the cohesion works successfully. Is it possible that schooling isn't necessarily there to support the individual but rather the masses? And if so, is it the role of the learner to take it upon themselves to fully satisfy ones education thirst whether it be lacking a push or lacking a sense of motivation, maybe they themselves have to find this - and it's not the schools problem. Although most would say it's like a second family and that ideologies that affect the school are also going to affect the home. Therefore it is vital that the ideologies we proceed with are compatible with not only the interest of individual and their family, but also with the school.