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But Amidst the Positives, is Everything Rosey in the Education Garden?

The Minister for Lifelong Learning, Bill Rammell MP, has given a statement welcoming the positive report from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on the overall health of Britain’s education sector.

The report, which is reported on in greater depth by FE News journalist Sara Hashash, states that the overall investment in education has risen as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It also shows that class sizes are falling, standards are rising and basic skills levels have improved somewhat.

Bill Rammell on the Successes

In his speech, Bill Rammell pointed to the positive hue of the report: “As confirmed by the OECD today, the overall UK education picture is a positive one. We are demonstrating strong performance, ongoing progress and there is much in this report to be proud of.” He also pointed out that the data is not quite up ““ to ““ date, and that he would expect the British assessment to improve. “The figures relate to data provided in 2002,” he said, “and we anticipate that our position will improve even further as our latest education performance features in future comparisons.”

He went on to wax lyrical on the increasing investment from the government. “Our ongoing investment in education – particularly at pre-primary level ““ where we invest more than any other country ““ is particularly noted.” He pointed to the GDP figures mentioned above, saying: “We will continue to invest heavily to ensure that every young person is given the best possible start in life.”

And the Things to Come?

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Mr. Rammell did comment, however, on the area of weakness for the British learning sector when compared with partners abroad ““ namely, post -16 education. “One of the biggest and most immediate challenges facing us in the coming years is, therefore, to encourage more teenagers to stay on in education. We remain concerned that the skills levels of our school leavers is too low and we are determined to take the necessary steps to ensure that we can satisfy the rising and changing demand for skills. The OECD sends a clear signal ““ we must improve vocational education if we are to keep apace with our competitors.”

Having said this, he spelled out what the Government see as their bold strides forward: “Tackling this stubborn issue is a priority for this government and we are already working with employers to develop high quality, high status vocational learning that will increase the numbers of trained individuals entering the workplace.” He finished with an optimistic message, however: “We must continue to drive forward with our reforms at all levels to ensure that we maintain high standards for our learners and high standing within the OECD community.”

The skills gap exists, then, and has been confirmed by an external assessment of the education sector. When compared with our economic trading partners ““ read competitors ““ we seem to have been found wanting. The next few years will be critical if the new century is not to mark the demise of British economic success and strength, with the dire consequences that this would entail.

Jethro Marsh

So how good is the education sector? Fine health, or a faint irregular pulse? Tell us in the FE Blog

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