It comes to a pretty pass when the world corporates (and indeed anyone carrying ‘responsibilities’) have to write and publish their End of Life Policy. Here’s one that Samsung have written for the benefit of their Chromebook users; as software utilities updates, hardware technology can’t and eventually the chip-sets of yesteryear cease to function – it’s call End of Life. And of course there needs to be a policy to describe what that looks like.
This model might make sense if our goal was to produce cars, clothing, and some other goods more efficiently. But a school education doesn’t fit into this paradigm. It isn’t just a commodity, something to be used and then discarded, because what we study and how we learn it remains with us as a learning experience for ever more. Or perhaps forgotten in the next 5 minutes of course, and needing on-going reinforcement until the knowledge and the understanding that underpins the skills to be acquired are embedded more fully. I am writing this at a time when quite a wide variety of reports, such as this from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, are coming out reporting that many new graduates are being recruited into non-graduate roles, suggesting inevitably that the cost to the students involved might not be worthwhile, or for that matter explain why non-graduates are therefore being squeezed further down the food-chain, so to speak. The research summarises that we should reduce quite substantially the volume of students studying to degree level, and that the Blairite policies propelling us to 50% at University have now reached their sell-by date and thus have served their purpose to ‘End of Life’.
A. J. Angulo is the Elizabeth Singleton Endowed Professor of Education and a professor of history (by courtesy) at Winthrop University. He is the author of Empire and Education: A History of Greed and Goodwill from the War of 1898 to the War on Terror. This summer, he wrote an excellent summary article of his thinking for the Guardian newspaper, in which he highlighted problems appearing in the States, with the arrival of for-profit companies pedalling university diplomas to those least knowledgeable in the value of same, and most gullible in terms of paying their way for a qualification not worth the diploma parchment it was printed on. The article is worth reading, a useful caution at a time when Universities are clamoring for higher finances for the undergraduate studies they provide to that growing number of school leavers in the Western world. It seems that State-side the case is proven – End of Life for graduate emancipation needs to be called.
Not so fast, dear Reader! Here in the UK, we have an emerging story around the development of undergraduate education over the last 60 or so years, which is on-going and evolving. Back in the 1990s, when a student went up to University, it used to be suggested that they were ‘reading’ their subject, say English, History or Mathematics, indeed even with contestant introductions by Bamber Gascoigne to University challenge on the BBC in this way. Times have changed. With costs escalating rapidly, a History degree at Bristol now delivers a whole lot more than a mere 1 hour lecture, a fortnightly seminar and a library reading card. The increase in contact time in the undergraduate years is giving rise to far more and varied opportunities to gain the vocational work skills around the subject, rather than just acquire theoretical skills of enquiry to be tested through examination alone. In the UK, the new for-profit providers of undergraduate programs have followed this lead; I was fortunate this Thursday evening to attend a reception at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute in Fulham Broadway, (BIMM), one of 6 of their centres in Europe, and I make no bones about it, the setup is very impressive as it provides a strong undergraduate experience to study and the opportunity to gain practitioner expertise in the business. Principal Julia Ruzicka really does set a new benchmark for what practitioner expertise might look like in College leadership see more here: Pick of the week’ from The Guardian . I’ll go further, and suggest that whether it be in nursing, medicine, the law, accountancy or Bar school, vocational training at undergraduate and postgraduate level by ‘private’ providers has been with us for yonks. Without their work, public life, regulation and service in the UK would be in chaos.
It is also the case that employers, training groups and Universities are now closely working together in a whole host of industries to merge undergraduate education back into the workplace. Coach building skills are best gained in the garage, say employers such as Morgan and Aston Martin, and what’s noticeable is that the graduates of such programmes are more loyal and longer serving that latter day postgraduate entries. I’d echo that experience within education; as many Claires Court parents know, we have a substantial number (>20) of past-pupils now employed throughout the school from early years to Sixth Form. They haven’t all served all their time here; I studied for my degree at Leicester and Justin Spanswick (Headteacher at Junior Boys) in Nottingham, but others have completed degree and PGCE qualifications at CC, and that programme is set to extend further with our new FdA in Childhood studies at Winchester now under way.
End of Life Policies exist to explain why support is to be switched off when the machine hardware in question is outmoded and no longer updatable. Our early Samsung Chromebooks are 5 years old this Christmas, and still working as well as they did on the first day of opening. The issues is that their systems architecture is unlikely to support the next updates of Chrome browser in 2017. Shame, as my little black chrome book is and remains an amazing workhorse. The beautiful thing about the human mind is that it is capable of such extraordinary and unfathomable activities that it seems never in need of a policy to limit its capabilities and define its limitations. In practical terms, whilst we have over the last 50 year worked out that many more than a privileged few are capable of pursuing an education to graduate status and beyond, we are resetting our expectations in terms of who can/needs to bear the cost of the residential component, and whether distance learning away from the factory face actually delivers the skills development that the job/employer/customer needs.
Pretty much every business/industry requires its workforce to develop substantial skills to be effective in their work, and the ability to apply learned knowledge in new situations is essential to that purpose. That is a metaphor for growing up too, in the 21st century we need to be adaptable, engaged and willing to take on new, and often as yet to be defined challenges. Education does not have such a single purpose, any more than work and play has, but it needs to support the very and many purposes individuals and society needs for their future development.
In short – That’s Life.