Ex­port strength

TES (Times Education Supplement) - - EDITORIAL -

In ed­u­ca­tional superpower Sin­ga­pore, the qual­i­fi­ca­tion of choice for 16-year-olds is the O level. You re­mem­ber, the qual­i­fi­ca­tion we ditched in 1988 to make way for GCSES. Sir Keith Joseph, the ed­u­ca­tion sec­re­tary at the time, claimed that the new qual­i­fi­ca­tions would “stretch the able more and stretch the av­er­age more”.

Few would claim that Sir Keith’s vi­sion has ma­te­ri­alised – hence the re­formed English and maths GCSES taken this sum­mer. In Sin­ga­pore, how­ever, the O level is do­ing just fine.

Sim­i­larly, there is a pe­cu­liar split be­tween how we per­ceive our own FE sys­tem and how it is seen over­seas. While our ap­pren­tice­ships and train­ing may have been rou­tinely bat­tered at home by the likes of Sir Michael Wil­shaw, else­where they are revered. As ex­plained by Jonathan Ledger, global TVET spe­cial­ist at the Depart­ment for In­ter­na­tional Trade (see pages 42-43), our ten­dency is to put our­selves down to po­ten­tial over­seas part­ners by un­pick­ing the many idio­syn­cra­sies in our post-16 land­scape.

We don’t need to ex­port our tan­gled sys­tem, with its myr­iad fund­ing streams, in its en­tirety. But a simple model that can be adapted to dif­fer­ent na­tions, based on UK strengths, would be an em­i­nently mar­ketable prod­uct. And, if the nascent UK Skills Part­ner­ship can get it right, a nice lit­tle earner for our FE providers, too. A co­her­ent ap­proach that would arm UK providers with a strong prod­uct and the nous to take it to the world has the po­ten­tial to be a real game-changer, both at home and abroad.

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