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The Purpose Of Education Education Essay

4928 words (20 pages) Essay in Education

5/12/16 Education Reference this

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This is a very interesting and complex question. Employers have complained that Britain’s education system is failing to meet the needs of UK companies. A survey of 6,000 businesses by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) found that the number of firms having difficulty finding skilled employees had risen by 50 per cent in the last decade. According to David Frost, Director General of the BCC, employers are frustrated that young people are not equipped with the right skills for the workplace.

“The system is not providing potential employees with the right skills for business and our figures show it has been falling for many years….The skills of our workforce are already lagging behind our global competitors. This Government must implement lasting reform….or our competitive edge could be seriously harmed. Businesses cannot wait any longer” stated David Frost, Director General of the BCC. (Recruitment, Training and Development, 2005,

In January 2005, Miles Templeman, Director-General of the Institute of Directors, said that government policies on education and training – particularly the lack of a proper system of vocational education – were to blame for the UK’s continuing productivity gap. In the hospitality, leisure, travel and tourism sectors, other research has found that more than 8 out of 10 employers feel that they are being failed by the education system. Some 40,000 school leavers in Britain enter the jobs market without a single GCSE, while the number of adults with inadequate literacy and numeracy is growing.

A Dual Role?

Thus the representatives from the BCC and the Institute of Directors clearly believe that the UK educational system should provide business and industry with a ready supply of potential employees which possess highly developed literacy and numeracy skills. What do politicians think this is the purpose of the UK education system? In October 1976, James Callaghan, the Labour Prime Minister, started a debate on the role and purpose of the UK educational system. He stated that “….the goal….should be to equip children to the best of their ability for a lively constructive place in society, and at the same time to fit them to do a job of work, not one for the other….but both….” (Continuing the education debate, 2001, p2).

The statement by James Callaghan clearly implies that education has a double role – to allow children to fulfil their career aspirations and also to become responsible citizens. “Citizenship” is itself a major issue in intellectual and political. What it means depends upon your ideological viewpoint. “The embodiment of the liberal view is contained within T.H. Marshall’s (1950) seminal text, Citizenship and Social Class, in which three strands of citizenship – the civil, the political and the social – are identified” (Bartlett and Burton, 2003, p103).

Citizenship – Ideological Perspectives

The three strands of citizenship outlined by Marshall are played out through a reciprocal relationship of rights and corresponding obligations that are enjoyed by every citizen as a legal entitlement. This status may confer, for example, the rights to freedom of speech and to vote, as well as rights for the protection of the sanctity of contracts and for ensuring personal welfare and security. Yet it may also enjoin citizens to honour obligations like upholding the law and refraining from interfering with the rights and of other citizens. This fundamental equality of rights and duties carries with it a potentially redistributive function, for it creates a model of social justice that is intended to counteract the negative consequences of a market economy driven by considerations of efficiency.

The New Right

In contrast with the liberal view, the libertarian conception of citizenship can be seen to have emanated from the politics of the New Right in which the relationship between the individual and state are conceived in terms of the explicitly contractual (Miller, 2000). A version of this perspective was prominent during the 1980s, in which consumer sovereignty and the pursuit of rational self-interest formed the backdrop to the enterprise culture inspired by an individualist and utilitarian political and moral philosophy.

The libertarian position has been summarised in the following way: “People seek to satisfy their preferences and values through private activity, market exchange and voluntary association with like minded individuals….Citizenship is not valued for its own sake; we are citizens only because we demand goods that require public provision. The citizen, to put it briefly, is a rational consumer of public goods….In its most extreme version, this means that the state itself should be regarded as giant enterprise and its citizens as its (voluntary) customers.” (Miller, 2000, p50).

The preconditions for this model are virtually impossible to achieve in practice. This is because they presuppose the possibility of “authentic markets” (Tooley, 1997) that are free from interference by the government. It is also argued that the libertarian model may be inappropriate as the basis for democratic citizenship since it reinforces class, gender and ethnic inequalities. This model displays serious educational inadequacies for it fails to acknowledge, in tandem with the market, children’s rights to the freedoms of personality, thought and expression (Verhellen, 2000).

The Republican Conception

In contrast with the libertarian position, but in harmony with the liberal view, the republican model (or civic republicanism as it is sometimes recognised) shares a fundamental equality of rights and duties. More than this, however, it has been argued that it provides the underlying rational of the order for Citizenship (Crick, 2000) where, in transcending the limitations of the liberal tradition, an appeal is made for greater political participation. Part of this spirit entails willingness on the part of each person to protect the rights of other citizens and to promote, in more general ways, a community’s common interests.

This requirement is implicit in the Advisory Group’s Report, where responsibility is construed as an “essential political as well as moral virtue, for it implies (a) care for others; (b) premeditation and calculation about what effects actions are likely to have on others; and (c) understanding and care for the consequences” (QCA, 1998, p13). In recognising this requirement it can be imagined that in situations where the rights of other citizens are need of protection and individual will be motivated to act in his or her defence.

This point is best illustrated in the case of the late Philip Lawrence, the head teacher who, in sensing the threat of danger to pupils in his care, moved outside his school in a brave effort to prevent violence. By acting in this way he did more than he was legally or morally obliged to do and yet with admirable courage displayed what many would regard as good citizenship. A further dimension of the republican model is contained in the idea that citizens are enjoined to an active role, in which they encouraged to participate in the political spirit of public life.

Presumably this was implied when the Advisory Group argued that “….citizenship education is education for citizenship, behaving and acting as a citizen….it is not just knowledge of citizenship and civic society….” (QCA, 1998, p13). Positive participation, therefore, reaches beyond the requirements of the citizen, for example, to check the excesses of government – in say, preventing the violation of civil liberties. More importantly, it directs the citizen towards the active process of political democracy, in which the group and sectional interests, as well as those of the community, are effectively prompted.


What is the purpose of education is a complex issue and requires a multi-layered approach. Employers believe that education should produce young people who have the skills, knowledge and attitude to make a genuine contribution towards the creation of wealth in the UK. James Callaghan, also correctly identified another goal that education should achieve. That is, it should encourage and nurture young people to become good citizens and become actively involved with issues that affect their everyday lives and their future (e.g. globalisation).

The issue of citizenship is not straightforward and what is actually delivered through the school curriculum depends upon the political persuasion of the government of the day. Throughout the 1980s successive Conservative Governments, under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher, sought solutions to the problem of underachieving public sector bodies through privatisation and the rigours of the market place. The future direction of the Scottish education system is subject to the pressures of a third force i.e. nationalism as the clamour for an independent Scotland grows.


The Scottish Education System – A Historical Perspective

To fully appreciate the impact of nationalistic rivalries on the future direction of the Scottish education system, we must travel back in time to the Act of Settlement in 1707. In essence the UK has two very closely related education systems, that which operates in England, and with some variations in Wales and Northern Ireland, and that which operates in Scotland. To understand why the Scottish system is distinctive it is necessary to look at the history and geography of the country. Scotland was an independent country with limited natural resources Scotland has historically placed great emphasis on education.

Schools run by the Church already existed in the Middle Ages but by the 16th century the burghs (towns) were also involved in founding schools. In 1560 the Protestant reformer, John Knox, called for the setting up of elementary schools in every parish, a fixed salary for the teacher and financial arrangements to cover the cost of education. “….By the time of the Union with England in 1707, Scotland already had 4 universities. After the Union, Scotland retained control over a number of aspects of its cultural and civic life including the church, the education system and legal system….” (Education UK, 2006,

The report of the Royal Commission on Education in Scotland of 1867 presents a vivid and detailed picture of the educational conditions of the whole country at that time. One can see from this that Scotland had been in possession of a national system of education for nearly two hundred years. The Education Act of 1872 gave effect to the recommendations of the Commission, and the Act improved primary education. “….Its object was to provide education for “the whole people of Scotland” and not merely for the labouring classes as was implied in the English measure…..” (Yousuf, 1990, p23).

The burgh or grammar schools, which were the true secondary schools, owing to the competition of the parish schools, were compelled to open their doors to primary pupils who were prepared to pay increased fees for the privilege. It is in this way that both types of schools became universal education providers and gave Scotland an education system far removed from the highly specialised character of continental schools. “….Scotland possessed for more than two hundred years the most democratic education system in the world, and to a considerable extent in consequence of this it has enjoyed an influence and importance in the world altogether out of proportion to its size and population….” (Yousuf, 1990, p23).

The Scottish Education System In The 21st Century

The Scottish education system is quite distinct from the education systems of the rest of the United Kingdom. It has its own legislative framework, curriculum framework and qualifications system. Under the Scotland Act 1998, the Scottish Parliament has responsibility for the entire education system, which is made up of the following elements:

Pre-school (3-4 years)

Primary school (5-12 years)

Secondary school (12-16/18 years)

Further education (16+)

Higher education (17/18+)

Community education (all ages)

Lifelong learning

In Scotland there are a number of agencies concerned with educational development. Most of these were established by the Government for consultation at national level and provide advice on elements of the Scottish education system. These are:

The Scottish Consultative Council on the Curriculum (SCCC)

The Scottish Qualification Authority (SQA)

The Scottish Further Education Unit (SFEU)

The Community Learning Scotland (CLS) (before 1 April 1999 CLS was known as the Scottish Community Education Council (SCEC)

The Scottish Council for Research in Education (SCRE)

The Scottish Council for Educational Technology (SCET)

The Scottish Higher Education Funding Council (SHEFC)

The Scottish Further Education Funding Council (SFEFC)

The General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTC)

The Scottish Joint Negotiating Committee for Teaching Staff in School Education (SNJC)

Prior to the Act of Settlement in 1707, Scotland was an independent country with natural resources. It placed great emphasis on providing its population with a quality education system to help it gain recognition in the world. The Scottish population are renowned for a string of inventions (e.g. telephone, television etc), which have had a profound impact on our everyday lives. Now in the 21st century Scotland has a devolved parliament and there is a growing groundswell of opinion that it would be better off as an independent country. Scotland is faced with two major problems: a declining population; and a declining manufacturing base. Education has a role to play in the drive to resolve these issues.

Scotland’s Declining Population

In 2004, 54,000 babies were born in Scotland. This was 3 per cent higher than in 2003 and the highest figure since 1999. However, Scotland’s population is still expected to drop below five million by 2017. (BBC News, Scotland’s first minister, Jack McConnell, in September 2004, pledged to transform the country’s housing and education sectors with a massive funding drive. He said that he would encourage expatriate Scots to return home to ease depopulation. In March 2004, plans were announced for foreign students to be given visas to stay and work for two years after they graduate. (BBC News, The Scottish Parliament has launched the Fresh Talent Initiative – this is to encourage people to relocate to Scotland. However, the effectiveness of this policy has been questioned from a number of quarters.

“….It is clear at the moment that there is a political commitment in Scotland for increased immigration…..Scotland needs to have….a ‘Scottish-specific’ immigration policy. In this respect Scotland can learn from other countries. For example, Canada has a clear immigration policy which links economic needs to immigration decisions….Immigration is a ‘reserved’ power….it is not the responsibility of the devolved governments….” (Wright, 2004, p12). Scotland’s population is ageing, like every other population in the western world. If it cannot substantially the influx of young people into the country through such policies as the Fresh Talent Initiative, it must seek to improve the skills and knowledge potential of the existing population through improving the quality of education.

Scotland’s Declining Manufacturing Base

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s Scotland’s traditional industries (i.e. shipbuilding, heavy engineering, coal mining, and steel manufacture) went into rapid decline. The new “sunrise industries” like computers and telecommunications were supposed to replace these traditional industries. Companies such as Motorola have invested in new manufacturing facilities within Scotland. However, in March 2002, Motorola closed its Bathgate plant with the loss of 3,000 jobs. (BBC News,

Many new jobs have been created in Scotland as a result of inward investment by foreign companies. However, many of the jobs that were created have proved to be transitory. Globalisation means that international capitalism finds it very easy to relocate its manufacturing facilities to new destinations in order to lower costs and take advantage of lucrative tax breaks. More needs to be done to create an entrepreneurial spirit amongst the Scottish population in order to create more home-grown jobs. Education has a very important part to play in this process.

Curriculum For Excellence

As outlined previously, education has a very important to play in helping Scotland to combat the problems of a declining and ageing population, and a declining manufacturing base. Consequently a programme (i.e. Curriculum For Excellence) has been created through a partnership between SEED, LTS, SQA and HMIE. The purpose of the programme is to improve the learning, attainment and achievement of children and young people in Scotland. It is important to ensure that children and young people are acquiring the full range of skills and abilities relevant to growing, living and working in the contemporary world.

They will enjoy greater choice and opportunity to help them realise their individual talents. Links are being made with TEIs, teachers’ representative organisations, COSLA and the business community. This is extensive programme and it will affect all areas of the curriculum in Scotland, throughout the early years, primary school and secondary school. It is a concentrated policy initiative to drive up educational standards and make learning accessible to all young people. Such a policy will require a substantial investment in education. The irony is that the Labour Government in Scotland may be undone by their political “masters” in Westminster, adding further weight to the argument for an independent Scotland.

Old Labour Versus New Labour

Prior to the election of the Labour Government in 1997, the Labour Party was in government for the following periods: 1945-51, 1964-70, 1974-79. During this time it implemented the following educational policies:

Comprehensive schooling;

Expansion / extension of educational opportunities and provision to hitherto or semi-excluded sections of the population (e.g. expansion of secondary education via the 1944 Education Act, expansion of higher education, the Open University);

Local community involvement in schooling, further and higher education;

Local community control over schooling, further and higher education (through democratically elected and accountable LEAs;

A commitment to policies of equal opportunities;

A degree of positive discrimination and redistribution of resources within and between schools, such as via the 1970s Educational Priority Areas, via targeted spending / “plussages” by LEAs and via “Section 11 funding” for minority ethnic groups;

A curriculum and education system which recognises issues of social justice and which aims at producing technically efficient, but fairer, capitalist society;

Developing the teacher as authoritative but relatively democratic and anti-authoritarian;

A contextual (or situational) type of teacher reflection rather than a “technical” (“how to”) reflection, or a moral / ethical social justice (“why”) type of “critical reflection”;

Aims for education to include the flourishing of the collective economy and society as well as the flourishing of the individual.

Opposition To New Labour From Within The Labour Party

“….Changes to traditional Labour Party rhetoric, internal party organisations and policies became rapidly evident following the election of Tony Blair as leader of the Labour Party in 1994. The New Labour changes provoked then – and have provoked since – widespread opposition to what is perceived widely as an adoption (and extension) of Conservative Party policies. Opposition to the New Labour changes from Labour’s traditional social democracy has come from two sources. Firstly, from the “Old Left” socialists and Marxists within the Labour Party (such as the Campaign Group of Labour MPs, most notably Tony Benn, and also from former social democrats such as Roy Hattersley….” (Hill, 2001, p2).

New Labour’s Educational Policies

Since its re-election in 1997, it has been argued that New Labour have ignored the Labour Party’s traditional approach to education and has simply built upon the Conservatives’ policies that were implemented between 1979 and 1997. There are six major themes to New Labour’s educational initiatives. These may be summarised as follows:

Curriculum continuity and change in both the National Curriculum for schools and the national curriculum for initial teacher education (“teacher training”);

The hierarchicalisation of schooling through marketisation and through the spread of selective “specialist schools” (what New Labour calls “Modernising” comprehensive education / “encouraging selection and diversity”);

Privatisation / nationalisation (what New Labour calls “creating new partnerships”);

The question of “standards” achieved in school tests:

The increase in inequalities in terms of radicalised social class;

Reduced public expenditure on education (and on other public services) (What New Labour calls “increased public expenditure”).

Tensions Between Scottish Labour And New Labour

The purpose of devolution was to provide an opportunity for the Scottish people to elect their own parliament and produce policies that best meet their needs. League tables for schools were introduced by the Conservatives. They have been continued by New Labour. In February 2003, Brian Wilson, the UK Energy Minister, branded the Scottish Executive’s policy on school tables as “pretty shocking”. He suggested that the Executive’s examination statistics failed inadequately to assess how well or badly schools were doing. He stated that value-added approaches were being ignored. (Allardyce and Macleod, 2003, p1).

However, Judith Gillespie of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council said that the tables were misleading. In September 2003, Peter Peacock, the Education Minister in Scotland, planned to scrap these tables as he considered them to be “….meaningless and illusionary…” (Edward, 2005, p1). However, the Scottish information commissioner, Kevin Dunion, pointed out that scrapping the league tables for schools would be illegal under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act that came into effect on January 1, 2005.


The disagreement between Scottish Labour and New Labour is hardly the way forward to utilise the opportunities that education can provide to upgrade the skills and knowledge base of the Scottish population. Moreover this disagreement in fact masks a more deep-rooted problem with devolution. “….After only one year a poll carried out in 2000 to coincide with the first anniversary of the setting up of the Scottish parliament found only 1 per cent of people believing that the Executive had done a very good job….” (Stott, 2003, p1).

The simple truth of the matter is that the Scottish parliament was always going to be dependent on Westminster for its financial survival. There was no scope for raising significantly more resources for public spending. By 2001, after only two years of devolution, the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey found only 15 per cent of people believed Holyrood held power and 66 per cent thought it was Westminster. 68 per cent of the people interviewed thought that the Scottish parliament should have more powers e.g. the power to raise additional funds through taxation.


Dealing With Disaffection

So far the investigation has identified that education has two purposes: to allow young people to develop appropriate skills and knowledge in order to make a valid contribution to the UK economy; and secondly, to ensure that young people become responsible and mature citizens. The debate about how to achieve these aims is subject to intense political and ideological debate. Whether or not the Scottish parliament gains greater autonomy or whether Scotland becomes independent, the education system will become part of the policy drive that is required to resolve the issue of youth disaffection

What is disaffection? The term “disaffection” is multi-faceted and refers to a cluster of behaviours, attitudes and experiences. A report by the DETR identified the following as elements of disaffection:

Lacking a sense of identity, having a sense of failure;

“Disturbed”, “depressed”, “difficult” young people, with social and emotional problems;

Behaviour – crime, misbehaviour, drugs, lack of social skills, harming (or potentially harming) self and/or others;

Not exercising civil/ democratic rights (uninterested, uninvolved, and unregistered) or social/economic rights (poor knowledge of, and access, to services);

Experience discrimination through age alone or combined with other factors (race, disability, single parenthood, homelessness, young carers);

Being failed by the system (especially education and employment / training);

“Status Zer0” – not in education, employment or training (“NEET”).

(DETR, 2000, paragraph 5.3)

The Causes Of Disaffection

There is a clear consensus in the literature that the causes of disaffection and non-participation are multiple and interconnected. “….Combinations and clusters of risk are of crucial importance to understanding the problem and its possible solutions….” (Bentley and Gurumurthy, 1999, p41). To give one example, children from families where both parents are unemployed are three times more likely than other children to have specific learning difficulties, three times more likely to have special educational needs, and ten times as likely to get into trouble with the police. These factors in turn are linked to the kinds of behaviour that lead to exclusion from school and subsequent non-participation.

“….For most disadvantaged young people it is likely that their disaffection arises and continues as a result of some complex interaction between agency and structure. Their main experience of structural factors is likely to be an education and employment system in which they and their family have not thrived, and, in response, they may well have chosen to adopt attitudes and behaviours which put themselves at even greater distance from it….” (Merton and Parrott, 1999, p6).

The major causes of disaffection may be summarised as follows:

Socio-economic structure and inequalities:

Poverty and family disadvantage

Geographical concentration of unemployment

Changes in the economy and labour market

Social exclusion of people with disabilities

Institutional shortcomings:

Educational underachievement

Inappropriateness of the National Curriculum

Institutional racism in the education system

Bullying and poor teacher-pupil relationships

Truancy and school exclusion

Inadequate careers guidance and post-16 support

Negative experiences of training

The family and relationships:

Unstable family life

Parental and peer attitudes in education

Residential insecurity and homelessness

Young carers

Behavioural and emotional factors:

Low self-esteem and confidence

Depression, stress and mental illness

Learning difficulties and behavioural problems

Drug/alcohol abuse


The range of factors associated with non-participation seems daunting. More research is needed to gain a better understanding of the interrelationship between the different factors involved. In broad terms, it is clear that measures are needed to tackle poverty and widen access to education and training opportunities if this problem is to be alleviated. At the level of service provision, it is widely agreed what is needed is a more integrated and holistic approach to disaffected and disadvantaged young people. For a person struggling because of a combination of family problems, low self-esteem and substance abuse, better careers advice alone is clearly going to be insufficient. At present the fragmentation of the support services for young people can seem to exacerbate their difficulties.

The Policy Response To Youth Disaffection

Education for Citizenship is part of a coordinated approach by the Scottish education system to tackle the problem of youth disaffection. It is a portrait of current practice is the first in a series of portraits by HMIE, depicting current practice in key aspects of the Scottish school curriculum. The portrait series is a new initiative by HMIE, flowing from the Improving Scottish Education report. It is intended to promote improvement in Scottish education through illustrating effective practice, raising current issues, and stimulating reflection and debate.

The series will indicate where there has been significant impact arising from national initiatives, but also where there is scope for further improvement. An important purpose of the portrait series is to relate existing pedagogy and curricular provision to the aspirations of A Curriculum for Excellence, by stimulating debate about pedagogy, the portraits will challenge educators to review the extent to which current practice is successfully promoting the four capacities in all young learners.

The four capacities are as follows:

Encouraging Responsible Citizens – The development of a sense of responsibility depends on encouraging pupils to adopt appropriate personal values and on promoting concern and respect for others. Pupils need to have some knowledge of political, social, economic, environmental and cultural issues.

Encouraging Successful Learners – Pupils’ learning is an important vehicle for developing education for citizenship in pre-school centres and schools. Pupils can develop the life skills of citizenship through a wide range of learning experiences which include curricular and cross curricular programmes.

Encouraging Effective Contributors – Effective citizens contribute to society. Schools should promote active participation. Pupils should experience opportunities to be consulted about day-to-day activities.

Encouraging Confident Individuals – Confident individuals will develop most effectively in an inclusive culture which encourages all pupils to participate in the broader dimensions of school life.

Education for citizenship has been an area of developing momentum in Scottish education over the last few years. The policy framework has developed systematically from the following national stimuli:

Values and citizenship is the fourth of the National Priorities for Schools, set out in 2000, in which the role of education in developing a sense of citizenship in children and young people was made clear.

In 2002, Learning and Teaching Scotland (LTS) published Education for Citizenship in Scotland: A Paper for Discussion and Development. The then Minister for Education endorsed the paper as the basis for a national framework for education of citizenship from 3 to 18, namely as:

An entitlement fo

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