Education Studies: Issues and Critical Perspectives

By Derek Kassem; Emmanuel Mufti et al. | Go to book overview

7
KATE MACDONALD:
England: educating for the
twenty-first century

Introduction

Education reform has been a major strategic feature of Government policy over the last 25 years. This chapter will draw on theories about the nature of the State and education to examine the values of the market as a basis for meeting the challenges of the twenty-first century. It will be the argument of this chapter that the prioritisation of the market economy both as value and mechanism for the delivery of public services has redistributed opportunity within the education system and changed the way in which consensus and integration are gained rather than addressing the challenges of modernising education.

The English schooling system is provided by the partially devolved British State, which is democratic and capitalist. One of the main characteristics is stratification associated with economic inequality and access to power (Giddens 1983). It is a complex organisation dependent on legitimacy and active consent from the electorate, containing three major social forms, the cultural, the political and the economic. The political sphere in a liberal democracy confers equal rights but not economic participation and the three roles are frequently in tension (Keane 1984). In their analysis of the postwar state Clark and Dear (1984) suggested that social integration was gained through the provision of welfare; consensus in that rules of ownership, order and security were agreed and the continuation of production ensured a stable economy through national ownership of infrastructure. The welfare state was conceived as an agency, which could ameliorate the effects of economic inequality through increased provision by the state of health and education, thus acknowledging social aspirations to increased opportunity.

These three functions, analytically distinct, are interdependent in practice. Thus the policy provision of education reflects the competing values of a stratified economy, State consensus and stability. For example, education policy can potentially provide training for work, citizenship skills and equal opportunity. During the welfare period education policy took the form of opportunity to participate in and compete for enhanced provision of secondary schooling. In theory pupils of school age gained the right to achieve in a meritocracy through the

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