The Life and Death of Secondary Education for All
Routledge – 2013 – 208 pages
Is there life after death for secondary education?
This book focuses upon the quality of learning. ‘Reform’, so called, too often begins with qualifications, examinations, institutional provision, paths of progression. All those are very important, but their value lies in the support they give to learners and their learning in its different forms. One needs to start with the aims of education and then with what it means to learn (practically, theoretically, morally) and with the very many different needs of the learners. That is what this book aims to do.
In so doing, it will be both philosophical in analysis and empirical in example. So much is happening ‘from down below’ that goes unrecognised by policy makers. But innovations too often get hampered by government interventions, by a bureaucratic mentality and by failure to spread good practice. The general argument of the book, therefore, will be illustrated throughout with detailed references to practical developments in schools, colleges, the third sector, youth work, independent training providers and professional bodies – across several countries.
The book builds on Education for All, which was based on 14-19 research into secondary education, this book transcends the particularities of England and Wales and digs more deeply into those issues which are at the heart of educational controversy, policy and practices and which survive the transience of political change and controversy. The issues (the aims of education, standards of performance, the consequent vision of learning, the role of teachers, progression from school to higher or further education and into employment, the provision of such education and training and the control of education) are by no means confined to the UK, or to this day and age. Pring identifies similar problems in other countries such as the USA, Germany and France – and indeed in the Greece of Plato and Aristotle and offers solutions with a comparative perspective.
It is a critical time. Old patterns of education and its provision are less and less suitable for facing the twenty-first century. The patterns and modes of communication have changed radically in a few years and those changes are quickening in pace. The economic context has been transformed, affecting the skills and knowledge needed for employment. The social world of young people raises fresh demands, hopes and fears. A global recession has affected young people disproportionately making quality of life and self-fulfilment ever more difficult to attain.
In addressing ‘learning’ and the ‘learners’ first and foremost, the book will argue for a wider vision of learning and a more varied pattern of provision. Old structures must give way to new.
"The effect of government policy in this country over the last three decades has been to create a fearful and demoralised teaching profession and a growing divide between those students who can 'achieve' in the system and those who cannot. This is morally unacceptable in a democratic country. In this carefully argued and uplifting book Richard Pring tells us that there is another way" - Mary Tasker, former chair of Human Scale Education
"The meticulous accumulation of detail and the comprehensive nature of the issues discussed lead to a coherent and convincing account of present perils and future paths to take to restore a humanistic, liberal education in contemporary times. It is a rich and multi-textured book that adds considerable weight to others who warn that children deserve more than being treated as a means to an end of better test results. Going to school should not be like a call up for compulsory education service. It is a strong and optimistic voice for a view of education for human flourishing, and I hope that this book is widely read" – Ruth Heilbronn, UCL Institute of Education, London
Part I Aims, Values and Culture 1. Secondary Education for All: Dream or Reality? 2. The Rise and Fall of Standards 3. The Aims of Education – Watch Your Language 4. Transmission of Culture: But Whose? 5. A Pause – the Need for Philosophy Part II Putting Aims into Practice 6. Can Education Compensate for Society? 7. Learning: a Wider Vision: ‘Learning How’ as well as ‘Learning That’ 8. Learning: a Wider Vision: Taking Experience Seriously 9. A Community of Learners in an Age of Communications Technology 10. Bring Back Curriculum Thinking 11. Bring Back Teaching 12. Testing, Testing, Testing: the Death of Education 13. ‘Know Thyself’: the Need for Guidance 14. Progression: Should We Take Employers and Universities Seriously? Part III Provision of Education 15. Public Service or Private Gain? 16. Providing for All 17. Have Faith in Schools? Conclusion 18. ‘Secondary Education for All’: Must It Be Just a Dream?
Richard Pring was Professor and Director of Educational Studies, University of Oxford, UK.