The key future benefit of education should be the right career path for every student

Sam Freedman of Teach First has blogged about his predictions for the future of education in England and challenged other bloggers to respond, so here goes.

The title of my post gives it away somewhat. It is my conclusion after more than 12 months of blogging about education and related matters, as well as launching my business as an education knowledge broker on the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, following almost a decade of work in national science and maths education policy (though I hasten to add NOT for a government).

How can I be so sure?

I could quote supporting research at you  – though at least one person might say that it depends whether the citations come from the Blob or not.

Instead I will lay out some strands of thinking to back my contention and allow you to take them to pieces if you wish:

  • The majority of individuals seek a career, either purposefully or as an accidental by-product of wanting to gain economic reward for their creativity and/or industry. A minority have no interest in any of this. So generally speaking, having a career is an accepted goal of society, though not the only one – others for example could be having children, or serving your community.
  • Education has a range of outcomes at all levels within a system. The teaching-focused part of the system should be interested in maximising the learning outcomes of individual students. There is a complex relationship between these and assessment outcomes, which means that examination results are not necessarily what they seem to the naked eye. Education is about more than just acquiring facts. Yes, they are important in life, but they are also relative and consensual, as I have suggested here. What really matters to my mind is HOW you learn about facts and the broader aspects of being a fully functioning adult and citizen. This is part of an overall package of competences that will be your tools on your career path. Measuring attainment is great, but we can never be certain what it actually implies for an individual student’s future.
  • So my prediction is that within the next 20 years, we will finally have managed to ensure that education produces real benefits which impact positively on students, ensuring that every young person is following the right career path for him or her. This is a huge ambition and only really practical at a localised level given the variabilities of regional, national and global factors. I think we all know this in our hearts, but some still strive for utopian, one stop solutions that will somehow change 100s of 1,000s of lives for the better. Who wants to win by the law of averages?