Education 2000 is a Registered Charitable Educational Trust
Its work is founded upon three assumptions which will animate its activities over the coming years.
These assumptions are:
- The structures and methods of education must help to sustain the traditional values of society; but they must also respond adequately to the current and future rates of cultural, social, industrial and technological change.
- These rates of change will be such that every individual of whatever capability will need access to educational opportunities throughout life; and these opportunities should not be limited, as has been the convention, mainly to childhood and adolescence.
- Given that the typical lead-time for the implementation of major educational reform is at present of the order of twenty years, it is a matter of the greatest national importance that goals should now be set for education after AD 2000.
The trustees wish to express their warmest thanks to those individuals and firms whose generosity has enabled the completion of the 1983 conference.
Especially, the Trustees and all the conference members wish to offer their loyal appreciation of the patronage of the conference by His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh whose suggestions did so much to shape the Conference’s work.
The motivations for the 1983 conference
Everyone is concerned with education. Most have spent at least eleven years being educated and have then observed the effects of education on their children.
The working of the education service affects the lives of us all. The service has, of course, developed over the years; but during the next two decades the rate of change within it must sharply accelerate if it is to be in tune with the likely social and technological evolution of the United Kingdom.
The trustees of Education 2000 are aware that communication has not always been fruitful between those in the educational system and those outside it. They believe that it is now more than ever important that inter-communication should occur and be effective. To help it to be so, the trustees invited some 60 individuals with, between them, a wide variety of experience to form the 1983 working conference, held at Westfield College, University of London.
The nine papers of this consultative document were each produced by the people named at their heads. They are not intended to provide, between them, a single view. They are commended as being produced with the best of intentions and with the objective of giving those who wished an opportunity to join in discussion preparatory to a conference in 1984 on ways and means.
To begin with, three preliminary points need emphasis. First, the word ‘education’ is being used generally and in the broadest sense: the development of character and capabilities, the acquisition of specific skills, the enhancement of intellect (or mind, body and soul), and the training of the social human being. Only when there is a specialist meaning of the word is it explained. Second, we are not taking up any party political stance – indeed we have probably taken ideas from most shades of political opinion; and the main practical reason for this is that, during the time-scale of the implementation of the changes we wish to see come about, there could well be four or five governments of different political character. Third, we do not believe that change, even generally-agreed change, can take place overnight: the time-scales which are built in to the system are so long that (as experience has shown) a ten- to twenty-year time span is realistic. Hence our title Education 2000, referring to the end of this century. We believe, however, that the process of change must start now: after all, there are already children, a few years old, who will still be being educated in one way or another in fifteen to twenty years’ time, and their parents can reasonably expect that proper plans are being made now for their future education.
Our first assumption, then, is: ‘the structures and methods of education must help to sustain the traditional values of society; but they must also respond adequately to the current and future rates of cultural, social, industrial and technological change’. Two comments may be made on this. We do not define British society’s traditional values, partly because in any event they gradually evolve as time goes by, and partly because ideological differences, and the contrasts within a pluralist society, seem somewhat sharper now than in recent decades. Nevertheless, we believe that most adults in our society possess a common instinct for what is good and best in communal behaviour, and that they wish their feelings to be carried forward to the next generation; and we believe that the home and family is, or perhaps should be, at least as influential as the school. And then we assert that the educational system must be structured to enable it to keep abreast of change in society in the large.
Our second assumption is: ‘these rates of change will be such that every individual of whatever capability will need access to educational opportunities throughout life; and these opportunities should not be limited, as has been the convention, mainly to childhood and adolescence ‘. The combined thrust of the arguments laid out in the following chapters convince us that the concept of education as an experience to be almost totally concentrated on one’s youth stems from the practicalities of the late nineteenth century and of the first Education Act of 1870, and has little to do with the patterns of life to be expected at the beginning of the twenty-first century.
Our third assumption is: ‘given that the typical lead-time for the implementation of major educational reform is at present of the order oh twenty years, it is a matter of the greatest national importance that goals should now be set for education after AD 2000’. Yet we are not aware of any concerted thought being given by the principal authorities involved to global strategies for education of a kind which might be embodied in a major Education Act.
The short history of state education makes this all the more surprising. There were little more than seventy years between the first Act and the last of any importance [the Butler Act), and now that another forty years have gone by, there is little fresh in sight. Instead, there are myriads of totally unconnected reports and papers being produced all the time by large numbers of concerned organisations and associations, the result of which is very limited.
Why, you may therefore ask, have the trustees and many other busy people from all walks of life gone to the trouble of producing yet another document which, according to the precedents, will not be heeded? There are five answers to this.
First, this consultative document is the result of discussions involving an unusual breadth of interests. It emanates neither from the broad area of schools, nor from the universities or polytechnics, nor from commerce and industry: instead, people from many areas of national life have come together to share their ideas about education in the future.
Second, this consultative document, written as a result of a week’s intensive residential work, is the only document (as far as we know) which attempts to examine the whole of the country’s educational requirements in the context of a realisable timescale and against the background of our society. Thus we have not limited our enquiry by subject or discipline, or by type of institution, or by age-groups, or by ability.
Third, the consequence of this comprehensive approach – namely the absence of the kind of detail over which individuals and committees argue endlessly – is that readers will be encouraged to lift their sights from the foreground, and to examine the distant outlines.
Fourth, We decided early on to eschew the ‘Royal Commission’ format of measured prose, of point and counterpoint, of statistical surveys and tables; and to produce instead a document which is relatively short, whose chief points (in the form of hypotheses) are instantly visualised on the page, and which is easily capable of wide circulation.
Fifth, this document is not intended to be definitive or prescriptive: the problems are too difficult for instant diagnosis and remedy. It is essentially a ‘Green Paper’ aimed at the nation at large. Education 2000 looks forward to receiving a major response to its invitation to comment on the following collection of papers; and it will plan its 1984 conference – aimed at determining a programme of action and influence up to about 1990 – largely on the results of the consultations which will have been vigorously pursued in the period September 1983 to March 1984.
That, then, is the background of the present publication and the hopes for the future which rest upon it, and you are warmly invited to contribute your thoughts and reactions by writing to one of the co-chairmen mentioned on page xv.