Would it be true to say that in most parts of the world education isn't a right but a privilege? If so, then may I please be plucked out from my current geographical position and hurled firmly into a country that subscribes to the majority view. Yes indeed, those of you who know me have guessed correctly: the government's been up to its old tricks. The usual words are being bandied about: consultation; green paper; white paper. The result: they're reforming the entire education system. Again.

The upshot of all the changes is that children should become more 'employable' adults. [Dreadful word!] I suppose, in itself, there's nothing wrong with that. After all, one wouldn't want the opposite to be true: one wouldn't want an education system that fails to make children 'employable'. But the reforms appear to leave very little room for anything other than 'employability'. In fact, when asked if these changes would eventually do away with pastoral care, a promoter of the reforms said there was no need to worry that such a thing would happen because the new system would still allow time for "young people to receive careers guidance." Since when have 'pastoral care' and 'careers guidance' been inter-changeable terms?

We're told the reason why these changes need to occur is because children "deserve" to be provided with whatever curriculum they wish to receive. Apparently, the current system is too restrictive and too inflexible. If a child wishes to do GCSEs in ancient Amazonian basket-weaving or Aborigine boomerang throwing techniques, then it is the system's duty to make those wishes come true. If a child wishes to be taught English and Drama at one school but feels that another school's Maths and Science teachers are better, then the system should transport the child to whichever teachers he/she feels will best meet their educational needs.

Is it just me, or is it impossible to connect all these disparate dots with each other? Is the problem with the current system simply that children haven't got enough choice? Will a wider range of choices (or, as the aforementioned promoter put it, "a higher level of additionality") automatically cause pupils around the country to apply themselves more energetically to their studies? Can wider social issues (you know, the ones we woolly liberals try to address when we're slacking off work... oops, sorry, providing pastoral care) really be kept separate from educational debates?

I once heard a story about a group of thirld-world pupils who had only one copy of Austen's Pride And Prejudice in their entire school. Undeterred by this "resourcing issue", they proceeded to create handwritten copies of the novel, because they were determined to overcome every obstacle on the road to sitting (UK-set!) English Lit exams. I'm not at all convinced that my sole objective as a teacher is to create employable individuals, but even if it were, I'm pretty certain that bending over backwards to cater to every child's whims isn't going to form a diligent, conscientious workforce. No, if I were an employer, I think the CVs at the top of my In-Tray would be those of the third-world kids.

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