Will the new qualifications help improve basic literacy and numeracy skills?

nick-boles-minister-for-skillsThe Minister for Skills, Nick Boles, has asked the Education and Training Foundation (EFT) to develop a set of qualifications to improve basic literacy and numeracy skills for life and work. The hope is that these qualifications will be ready by 2018, and that they will, in Nick Boles’ words ‘meet the expectations and needs of employers and help people into secure jobs’.

I don’t know how ‘life and work’ are defined in the Minister’s brief, and I fear that this could end up like so many other well meaning initiatives, a set of unused learning tools, shoe horned into a qualification which has no real validity in the jobs market.

The essential skills that people need for ‘life and work’ can best be imparted via life skills simulations and active learning programmes, which replicate the set of complex and interconnected problems that people will face in their day to day lives, and which will equip them with a robust set of practical skills, all grounded in educationally sound and functionally useful learning.

The traditional idea of seeking to encompass a body of learning in a qualification of one kind or another, simply fails to meet the needs of contemporary society.

The problems young people face today are not in any meaningful way dealt with by the current education system, for the simple reason that these problems have emerged since the system was established.

If we are serious about meeting the expectations of employers, while at the same time helping people into secure jobs (and what if those secure jobs just don’t exist?) we would have a national, planned programme of functional life-skills education and training, which would focus on equipping people with a set of practical skills they can use in their real lives, rather than developing another body of qualifications.