Changing The Educational Curricula

Changes in curriculum are necessary to meet present student needs and new curricula should be developed based on shorter tenure and a lower level of attainment.

A mass system is based on the conception of education as an experience continuing throughout life and offering the individual recurrent access to courses as his or her needs require. It should be related to a diverse range of individual, social and economic needs, for self-development and increased confidence, for involvement in democratic processes and for broader social and economic objectives, such as multiracial understanding, full employment and leisure-based study. It should provide for open structures through which community interests can articulate their expectations and needs, and should operate within a clear framework that integrates the planning of courses in different institutions. It is not compatible with the binary divide between private and the public sector, for this has served as a major obstacle to adapting the total post-school system to changing needs.

If a comprehensive system is defined as one offering access to the entire adult population, it must entail the development of work-based education alongside traditional institution-based education. The experience of paid educational leave in Western Europe suggests that workers are often more motivated to take up training opportunities at their place of work than to take day release at the local college.

The principle of majority access does not mean that all courses should be open to all people regardless of qualifications. It means that the design of courses must take into account the qualifications that adults may or may not have: therefore, more lower-level courses must be designed to attract the sixteen-year-olds who leave school each year with no qualifications, and higher-level courses must be redesigned to accommodate a broader range of students entering with lower-level qualifications.

New mechanisms should be sought for ensuring an effective community voice at the local level. At present external representatives on university governing bodies are expected to act in their individual capacity and sophisticated procedures for confidential business deny local community groups the information necessary to intervene meaningfully in decision-making. It should be established community forums that would draw together local community groups – women groups, trades councils, citizens advice bureau, churches, youth groups and so on – and involve them in identifying local needs. Governing bodies should draw up a full profile of such needs against which these forums would then be able to evaluate existing course provision and advice on priorities for development. Such forums are essential to satisfying unmet needs and opening up decision-making at the local level.

Practical steps can be taken by universities in order to increase community access to courses. Universities should consider joint pilot schemes with near-by colleges to develop new curricula attractive to workers on day release or paid educational leave. Looking to the longer term, we will also need more leisure-based courses for an adult population in a shorter working week. Universities have a direct and supportive role to play in achieving the expansion of part-time and non-advanced courses that will form the predominant provision within a mass system.

All these changes require a new political commitment by the government, in seeking a more open and democratic education system.

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