What courses should we teach?

US_Navy_101110-N-0437M-397_Mooseheart_High_School_science_teacher_Curt_Schlinkman_hands_out_homework_to_his_students_who_are_also_Navy_Junior_ROTCYou normally study for pleasure or to get qualifications. And there is no longer any shortage of subjects to choose from. Perhaps too many, some might say. At any one time almost half the adult population is studying. So who chooses what courses there are?

Some answers are easy. Schools are told what to teach by the national curriculum. There is flexibility; primary schools might emphasise the Arts or become ‘forest schools’, whilst secondary schools can achieve ‘specialist status’. But they don’t have a huge amount of independence and in any case are inspected. In fact, Ofsted have just announced an increased interest in the curriculum.

After the age of 16 there is even more freedom. It’s called ‘post-compulsory’ for that reason. Whether – and what – you study is to a great extent up to you ( although that will have changed by 2015 ). And at this point, what you study can be loosely described as non-vocational ( for fun ), vocational or work related, or academic, i.e. towards a degree. All of which are usually staffed by professional teachers.

Take work-related education and training. Many of those involved in this area have found their work has been expanded by government. This is partly to reduce the numbers of NEETS ( those not in education, employment or training ). So you may well hear about apprenticeships and about colleges doing more work with more students ( study programmes ). Choice is becoming quantity. Not everyone, however – including the professionals themselves – can agree there is enough quality or work experience. This despite the fact that we’ve been trying to do this sort of training at least since the 1980’s ( the old MSC ). Nevertheless, there is still now a better chance than ever of succeeding, partly because matters are in the hands of educators. And the CBI has always wanted problem solving. Now they’re likely to get it in the personal skills and employment preparation part of the programme.

So who has the most freedom in what they choose to teach? Indeed, does anyone really have such freedoms, among all these government initiatives? Whatever the case, we can still point to the fact that currently, adult education is pretty good. They can usually provide the courses you want or that they think you might enjoy ( I came across ‘encaustic art’ recently which is apparently art with melted wax. Fabulous. ). And within today’s vast H.E. range you can now get once more a BA in Liberal Arts, which is a historical gem. OOL are clever with what they provide as well. So whatever courses you want – or need – someone’s probably providing them.

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My last job was as a tutor for OOL. I taught on courses providing professional training for school support staff, as well as A level English Literature and English Literature GCSE. Prior to that, I worked in schools, colleges, adult education and the Arts, including a period as a local authority inspector. I'm going to make myself busy trying to keep you up to date with different aspects of education news – and also to keep you interested.

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