chapter  7
21 Pages

The problem of British education policy as economic policy: Francis Green


Compared to other similar industrial nations, the workforce in Britain is, as a whole, poorly educated.This deficiency, a recurrent theme of enlightened reports and monographs in earlier times, has been asserted hitherto on the basis of piecemeal evidence and informed systemic comparisons with other nations. Recently, however, newly available, consistent, statistics have formally confirmed that educational attainment is low in Britain.The relevant facts will be presented below.Their economic significance arises because of the widespread increase in the perceived importance of education as an economic policy instrument, following technological changes and global development. The British problem now is that, despite absolute improvements in education levels, compared again to other nations the education levels may be falling further behind rather than catching up. Even in this era of high demand for education, no British government has hitherto found itself able to commit the resources necessary to narrow the education gap with other countries. This ‘failure’ of British education policy qua economic policy is not a simple mistake. Rather, it arises from contradictory social, political and economic forces.The consequence, as I shall show, is that the education sector, torn between conflicting forces, is under considerable stress, with declining relative pay and an extreme intensification of work effort.The remedy lies in a democratic resolution of those contradictions, and is not to be found merely through continuous, piecemeal, improvements to the education process or in the training system, even though the latter are also needed.