Report

UK – Educating for the economic future

Digitalisation and automation are changing the number and types of job available and the skills required to carry out existing jobs effectively. Around half of adults in England have basic or no ICT skills, and this is higher than the OECD average. Younger people fare better, but facility with social media should not be mistaken for ‘digital literacy’ and work-based digital skills such as knowledge management and data analysis. Strong ICT skills offer opportunities to overcome the disadvantage of having low formal qualifications in the English job market, but such skills are increasingly being demanded in combination with other higher-order skills such as problem-solving, social skills and literacy and numeracy. The school system has a key role to play in fostering digital skills alongside maths and literacy skills. The teaching of coding in English schools has been a welcome development but many teachers lack confidence in delivering the curriculum.

There is considerable potential for the role of technology to enhance pupils’ learning and to reduce teacher workload. Given the typically large up-front costs involved, the use of technology in the classroom needs to be underpinned by a sound pedagogical approach with sufficient time given to teachers to make good use of it and so make the investment cost-effective.

Addressing the development needs of existing workers is an important priority – according to the CBI and Pearson’s Education and Skills Survey of 2015, around half of businesses (46 per cent) are aware of deficiencies in their current workforce. Employers also need to be better at exploiting the existing digital skills of their employees to harness the potential of new technologies to drive business growth, innovation and broader societal development. The new apprenticeship system also offers an opportunity to improve the links between digital skills development, education and use of skills in the workplace to drive up productivity.

The UK’s adults have relatively poor levels of financial literacy, and young people’s proficiency is strongly linked with parental influences. Schools play an important role in financial literacy development through their teaching of maths competencies. It is uncertain how successful the integration of specific financial concepts into citizenship and mathematics teaching has been, but feedback from pupils, particularly from disadvantaged groups, suggest that they are keen to learn. Mixed evidence on the effectiveness of specific financial literacy interventions points towards the benefits of providing experiences which allow pupils to exercise the practical skills they have learnt in the classroom before they are forgotten.

Our long term economic challenges demand a new approach to career development and lifelong learning

Career paths today are often more dynamic than in the past; spanning multiple roles in multiple fields. For an individual well-equipped for this it can be life-enriching. For others it can be daunting, a world away from the security and personal visibility of a ‘job for life’. A grasp of the basic tool kit of practical numeracy, English and life skills can facilitate career flexibility but, beyond this, a commitment to lifelong learning should be at the heart of any credible skills strategy. Research evidence points to a clear link between lifelong learning, national prosperity, reduced inequality, improvements in emotional wellbeing and societal cohesion. The UK has relatively low rates of employment-based training (according to the 2010 Continuing Vocational Training Survey, 31 per cent of UK employees attended vocational training courses at work, compared to an EU average of 38 per cent), consistent with its lightly regulated and high-turnover labour market, its tax system, and its industrial make-up.

Overall rates of training, including informal learning among the wider population, have tended to compare better with those of other advanced economies, but there are deep inequalities in access according to income and prior education, and provision has fallen in recent years. Those who stand to gain the most from undertaking learning are least likely to participate – often due to issues of cost. Inconsistencies in the public funding of qualifications of different types may exacerbate future skills shortages and undermine attempts to raise the standing of technical education. Personal learning accounts – particularly if lessons are learned from the previous discredited Individual Learning Accounts scheme could play a key role in encouraging learning over the life course.

Around half of adults in England have basic or no ICT skills – higher than the OECD average. Younger people fare better, but proficiency with social media should not be mistaken for ‘digital literacy’ and work-based digital skills.

The school system has a key role to play in fostering digital skills alongside maths and literacy skills. The recently-introduced teaching of coding, for example, is welcome – yet many teachers lack confidence in delivering the curriculum. There is considerable potential for the role of technology to enhance pupils’ learning and to reduce teacher workload.
The UK’s adults have relatively poor levels of financial literacy, and young people’s proficiency is strongly linked with parental influences. Schools play an important role in financial literacy development through their teaching of maths competencies. Further integration of financial concepts into curriculum is therefore essential.
Career paths today are far more fluid, and subject to change than in the past:

A commitment to lifelong learning must therefore sit at the heart of any credible skills strategy. Evidence points to a clear link between lifelong learning and national prosperity, reduced inequality and improvements in wellbeing.
Access to career development and training remains a huge problem – with those set to benefit the most likely to be missing out.

via Educating for our Economic Future – The Education Policy Institute

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