Modernism and postmodernism in education in Britain

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This essay sets out to identify how the idea of modernism and postmodernism fit into the education system of Britain. It will seek to discover how education first began from the enlightenment period in the nineteenth century up to the present day. This essay will highlight the changes that have taken place in education, and how vocational education, and the beginnings 's of lifelong learning has taken root in today's state education system. The beginning of the education system in Europe and its and ideals and beliefs have stemmed from religion and the church. From the very beginning of the religious beliefs, followers and disciples would have required the knowledge and skills to read and follow instructions from the Christian faith. The French revolution 1848 played an important role in determining the enlightenment and modernistic ideas. Prior to the French revolution the monarchs, government ministers, church clergy and the old guard were the most powerful influences on society. The enlightenment project had split from the teachings and beliefs of the church and faith and placed its values in reason, scientific findings, human nature, non religious ideas, free ideas and intellectual thinking. The enlightenment period would be a revolution of ideas that emanated from the old ideas of the middle ages, and religion and the church being the font of all knowledge. Out of the Enlightenment period Modernity was born towards the end of the nineteenth century and they would have viewed the world as scientific, based on universal truths, logical thinking of knowledge and objectivity. This was a move away from reliance on faith to reason only accepting knowledge if their was proof of a move into modernity Born, A (2002, p42) states;

'Modernism has, of course, many dimensions but central to its beliefs was the emancipatory potential of particular forms of knowledge. Reason and science were to be applied to human affairs, as well as to the natural world, replacing god as the prime basis for human betterment and social progress'.

Modernity mirrored capitalism and the state did not strive for education of the masses to gain social equality but to make the country prosper economically. The industrial revolution went some way to change ideas about knowledge, education and training as workers were becoming more skilled and the necessity to read and write was apparent. Unfortunately for the majority of people, education was seen to be for the privileged few up until the end of the Second World War. Education of this time was based on a three tier system that included Secondary Moderns, Grammar and Technical Schools. The education of the majority of the nation was left down to the teachers, educators and heads of the educational institution, government and ministers were not involved in the "what" and "how "to teach children. The education of the time would have been based around the reading, writing, arithmetic's, religious education and vocational subjects like woodwork, needlework and metalwork. This would have reflected a traditionalist view of education rather than a modernist approach. While the move towards modernity had begun many schools still remained traditionally based around the church, Kelly, V (1994, p24) argues;

'In most societies deliberate attempts are made to use the educational system to promote certain kinds of social and political values- and religious values too, since it is plain that the massive contribution of the churches development of education al provision over the years, along with their close involvement in the planning and management of schools and colleges'

These students would not have left school without a qualification but may have been awarded a certificate of school achievement. As education progressed into the 1950's The General Certificate of Education Ordinary level qualifications and the Advanced GCE level qualification were introduced into mainstream education. According to the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency, the Certificate of Secondary Education (CSE) was introduced in the 1960's to cater for a wider spectrum of students. The reasons behind this were that the majority of students were not able to complete the elitist O Levels and A Levels, as the examinations and processes were too far reaching for the ordinary child. The modernistic approach towards education system had not changed since the introduction of the 1944 Education Act under Churchill's Government, until the introduction of the Margaret Thatcher Government in 1979.

The post modernistic movement has come from a reaction against Modernism this would have been reflected in our culture and, whether that is the arts, literature or architecture, these have stemmed from a feeling or change in our society. As the first world has evolved and moved on from the origins of capitalism and industrialism. Managerialism and the move away from the individual teacher holding power in what they taught their students to the state deciding what should be taught. Technology, whole sale capitalism, privatisation, globalisation would thrive in the post modern world, which had its roots at the end of the Second World War. According to Usher, R (1996, P2) it is very difficult to pigeon hole education with Postmodernism and goes onto state;

'Historically, education can be seen as the vehicle by which modernity 's 'grand narratives', the enlightenment ideals of crucial reason, individual freedom, progress and benevolent change, are substantiated and realised'

Since the Introduction of Margaret Thatcher and her Conservative party in 1979 they had sought to change the education system in Britain, with the Education Act 1988, a new Curriculum was born. The structure of the previous qualification for primary and secondary schools were deemed to be out of touch. The General Certificate of Education Ordinary level qualifications were to be abolished and replaced by The General Certificate of Secondary Education, Usher, R (1996, p25) states;

'Education is itself going through profound changes in terms of purposes, contents and methods, changes are themselves an aspect of the uncertainties of the postmodern moment'.

And goes on to state;

'Thus postmodernism becomes part of the curriculum, incorporated into the modern practice of education'.

The National Curriculum had put the Government at the forefront of educational development, it had had moved policy making and educational change into a centrally planned system. The National Curriculum had identified that students would be broken down into key stages, so that they could analyse the progression and attainment targets from each key stage, from an assessment defined by the government. Another fundamental change was the differentiation of subjects into core and foundation subjects. The core subjects would be based around Mathematics, English and Sciences and Kelly, V (1994, p24) argues;

'Thus English has to come known more often as' language', as teachers have come to concentrate on the development of the pupils ability to use language for thinking and for talking as well as for writing, and, in the process of this change, there has been some loss of emphasis on grammatical structures, on punctuation and, in general, on the mechanics of the English language'.

The Governments reasoning to change the curriculum, was to keep In line with the postmodern world and its competitors. According to Kelly, A (1994) the need to educate and train students to become part of society through employment and economic growth was paramount to the ideals of the Government. The beginnings of life long learning for fourteen to nineteen year olds can be seen In 2004 by Mike Tomlinson report on the 14-19 reform of education which was commissioned by Tony Blair's Labour Party following on from his "Education, Education, Education" rhetoric. The proposed change of curriculum is very much centred on young students becoming adults within the qualification framework, thus putting them on the first step of life long learning. The change in ideals and ambition between New Labour and the Conservative Party it had superseded was not too far apart.

Mike Tomlinson had advocated a complete shake up of the current qualification framework of G.C.S.E'S and A Level qualification. Tomlinson (2004, p4) states that the reform was needed to;

'Raise participation and achievement, strengthen vocational routes, provide greater stretch and challenge, get the basics right(English, maths, ICT) reduce the assessment burden, and make the system more transparent and easier to understand'.

Since 2004 Vocational education has been introduced into secondary school, building people into the world of work not modernism education for education sake.

The plethora of courses now available to school children from the age of 14 years old, range from Construction, Horticulture, Catering, Creative Media, Motor Mechanics, Engineering, Hair, Beauty, Outdoor education etc. this continuation of the changing face of education falls in line with Jarvis(2004,p32);

'With this rapid change, it is almost impossible to regard knowledge as a truth any more- we are now talking about something that is relative and can be changed again as soon as some new discovery is made'.

Although vocational education has reached many more students in secondary schools Tomlinson's, wholesale change of the qualification framework for 14-19 year olds has been water down and have been partially introduced.

In conclusion the debate and arguments surrounding Modernism and Post modernism on our society have been ongoing since the introduction of the idea. Modernistic views replaced the ideals of the church, and Knowledge being placed into scientific findings and truths as the world was changing. The ideas of Modernism and Postmodernism took various forms in architecture, art, literature and education, and it could be argued that postmodernism is just another form of modernism, and one is an extension of the other. As the essay has shown knowledge is ever moving and changing and the education of our society reflect that cultural and ideological movement.

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