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Reasons for optimism – education

Summary:
The grounds for optimism concerning UK education at both school and university levels are based on the assumption that it will change. Critics have not been short of ammunition, pointing out that children from East Asian countries regularly score well ahead of their UK peer group in ‘hard’ subjects such as mathematics, physics and engineering. There has been concern that the measures which purport to show a higher percentage passing with higher grades are in fact measuring grade inflation, and that the subjects have been dumbed down to make high scores easier to attain. There is concern, too, that a typical UK university is no longer what Disraeli called “a place of light, liberty and learning,” but a place that will not tolerate the expression of views that might offend some people.

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The grounds for optimism concerning UK education at both school and university levels are based on the assumption that it will change. Critics have not been short of ammunition, pointing out that children from East Asian countries regularly score well ahead of their UK peer group in ‘hard’ subjects such as mathematics, physics and engineering.

There has been concern that the measures which purport to show a higher percentage passing with higher grades are in fact measuring grade inflation, and that the subjects have been dumbed down to make high scores easier to attain. There is concern, too, that a typical UK university is no longer what Disraeli called “a place of light, liberty and learning,” but a place that will not tolerate the expression of views that might offend some people. Critics also allege that in a scramble for diversity, political correctness and equality, universities have lost sight of quality.

There are, however, indicators that suggest these criticisms may soon be met. Every year more schools choose to be self-governing as ‘free’ schools or to attain ‘academy’ status. This combines with the parental choice that has become widespread to create a situation in which parents can put pressure on the system by preferring schools with rigorous academic standards rather than ones which pursue a ‘woke’ agenda of social and diversity awareness instead. Since the schools’ revenue from the state is based on enrollment, the choices of parents will increasingly lead schools to follow the preferences of parents and students or risk closure.

An important technological development will speed the process of change. The application of artificial intelligence to education makes it possible for each child to have an individual electronic tutor that can teach them at the pace they are capable of attaining. These will be accessible outside the classroom as well as within it, and will transform the way children are taught. Teachers will no longer have to attempt to lead a class forward all at the same pace.

Further grounds for optimism about the future of education spring from the fact that variety will increase as both schools and universities have the option of specializing in particular disciplines. Some will choose to become centres of excellence in subjects such as mathematics or music, and as they acquire that reputation, will attract the brightest and the most promising students in those subjects to their doors.

University education has become increasingly international, and will almost certainly continue to do so. UK universities have many students from other countries studying at them, and increasing numbers of UK students are choosing to study at foreign universities. This enables students to choose the institutions and courses best suited to their needs and abilities.

The greatest improvement will come from the change in which the state no longer provides education, but guarantees access to education instead. The state will provide most of the money for education, but it will be directed to independent, self-governing institutions rather than to state-owned ones. This leads to competition between providers of education, and will raise standards accordingly.

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