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Tag Archives: Scottish Education

Robert Burns, poetry and enlightenment.

The 25th January is Burns day in Scotland. Those who like his poetry get together at some point during the day or the evening and they have a Burns Supper. A Burns Supper involves people reciting some of his poems, singing some of his songs and eating haggis, mashed turnips mashed potatoes.  There may also be some drinking of alcohol some of which will be whisky.

I’ve never been to a single Burns Supper, not a one. Now that is slightly surprising given that my Dad used to go to between 15-20 every year. He performed for years and did Tam O’Shanter, Holy Willies Prayer, Tae a moose, various and toasts and sang songs as well. He even made it onto Scottish Television one year providing an opinion of tasting various recipes for haggis.

I’m not altogether sure why I didn’t go to any and there was no real pressure from my Dad to go. He enjoyed it and I have a video somewhere of him doing Tam O’Shanter.

How did Robert Burns manage to write his poetry? He wasn’t from a moneyed background and he had no real advantages in his early years. So what sort of education must he have had? Bear in mind that at the time he was going to school very few children had access to books and school.

Robert Burns was a product of the Scottish Enlightement. Enlightenment was happening all over Europe with differing results. The enlightment in Scotland changed the world. If you don’t believe that for a moment you might want to check out read “The Scottish Enlightenment – The Scots invention of the modern world” by Arthur Herman ISBN 1-84115-276-5.  This book should be required reading for everyone living in Scotland, who will be able to vote, ahead of the Scottish Independence Referendum.

Back to Burns though. The Church in Scotland and the Scottish parliament decided that the best way forward for the country was to educate the people. Again at this time it was only people with loadsa money who could get their children really educated. The intent was a good one but how to achieve it. Basically they set up a library in every town and city in Scotland. A library could be set up anywhere there was room so it might have been in the local butchers or any other shop or building. Children were encouraged to read and they were helped in this because at the same time local schools were also formalised and a certified teacher had to be employed by the local population.

The effect of this was pretty incredible. Over a period of years the levels of literacy soared in Scotland. The level of literacy in Scotland (75%) outstripped England (53%) by a huge amount.

So Robert Burns had access to books, he was taught by a real teacher to read, ask questions and along with other the other things happening in Scotland at the time which, widened his horizons. The education system in Scotland was the best in the world. Things have changed now and modern politics or modern politicians have managed to mess it up.

What would Rabbie Burns think about how things are now and how would he view the opportunity to gain Independence for Scotland.

You know what his answer would be.

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Posted by on January 25, 2014 in Art, Edinburgh, Education, Equality

 

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Educational musings

Over the past few weeks I’ve been laying out radical changes, which may benefit the education system within Scotland. I’ve worked closely with education establishments on a number of projects although I’m no teacher.

In Scotland we took great pride in being able to boast that we hade the best education system in the world. What we didn’t mention was that our reign as best in the world was a long, long time ago. Our education system still worked pretty well until the late sixties when the basic structure of the system was altered in an attempt to create a more level playing field for our children.

It’s patently obvious that this system hasn’t worked and the longer it has been in place the worse things have got. How do we know the education system isn’t working? Because the system is aimed almost entirely at having our young people achieve a degree whilst at the same time the quality of the degrees available have been greatly diluted.

In order to address this, significant and far-reaching change is necessary. This is required so that our young people have a real opportunity to achieve their full potential. This immediately flags up a significant problem; since all of your young people are individuals with differing strengths and weaknesses could we ever develop a flexible enough education system, which would provide the learning, experience and support on an individual basis?

The easy answer is of course NO. Then this is qualified by saying it would be far too expensive, the additional resources required would require substantial budget increases, which are just not affordable. I would argue that we cannot afford not to give every one of our young people the best possible opportunity to be the best they can be. As a country we need this, as a country we have successfully achieved this albeit on a much smaller scale and a long time ago.

The first ten points I’ve identified are as follows –

  1. EVERY pupil/student should achieve their full potential;
  2. EVERY student teacher should achieve their full potential;
  3. There is NO PLACE for politicisation within education;
  4. There is NO PLACE for religion in any area of education;
  5. REDUCE the size and influence of local education department to the lowest possible level required to support schools.
  6. EVERY pupil should be treated as an individual and not be subject to a dress code.
  7. Successful methodologies and best practice should be adopted in order to provide the BEST learning experience possible for pupils/students.
  8. The pupil/student RATIO should be around 6:1.
  9. Teacher advancement would be measured solely on pupil/student ACHIEVEMENT.
  10. Schools should EXPLOIT the greater school community to provide a rich content learning experience for pupils/students.

Essentially the system would need to be developed on the basis that every learner would receive the encouragement and support they required in a manner tailored to their needs. The learner becomes a partner within the educational system. They have needs and wants which require guidance and support which builds on their strengths and helps them be aware of their weaknesses.

This can’t be done in a class of 40 or a class of 20 for that matter. Whilst various strategies have ben tried and tested to stream learners by age and ability the basic flaws have not been addressed. The flaw of course is that each time leaners are streamed they are placed into one of three sub-groups: the top 5-10%, the middle 80-90% and the bottom 5-10%. Their position within these streaming may alter depending on subject or peer group although it is unlikely that they will dramatically vary their over all group. If they do then it’s likely that a much higher position in a subject stream exposes a potential talent whilst a much lower position in a subject exposes a lack of suitability for that subject.

The central aim is to have every learner achieve his or her full potential within a system, which encourages and delivers the correct environment for this to take place.

This can only be achieved if teachers are also supported and encouraged to achieve their full potential as a teacher. The management structures within schools would then have to alter with teachers being the most important element within each school. This would almost certainly reduce the role of the Head Teacher who would no longer be directing the activities and structural delivery of the teaching. Head Teachers would teach and work directly with all teaching staff to enable “every learner achieve their full potential”.

The structure of teaching career paths would have to alter significantly too. Good teachers would not be promoted out of teaching they would be promoted to increased teaching not just of learners but of student and lesser experienced teachers. In such a system teachers would be able to gain more money and status within the school based solely on their ability as teachers.

Administrators would be there to support teachers to maximise teaching time. Perhaps they would be student teachers learning not just how to teach but also on what is required to allow good quality teaching to take place.

I’ll return to this subject again and again over the next few weeks.

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2012 in Education, Politics

 

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Achieving full potential within the entire education system – Part 3

A few weeks ago I identified the following aims, which could be considered as potential starting points for improvements to the education system as it stands at the moment.

  1. EVERY pupil/student should achieve their full potential;
  2. EVERY student teacher should achieve their full potential;
  3. There is NO PLACE for politicisation within education;
  4. There is No PLACE for religion in any area of education;
  5. REDUCE the size and influence of local education department to the lowest possible level required to support schools.
  6. EVERY pupil should be treated as an individual and not be subject to a dress code.
  7. Successful methodologies and best practice should be adopted in order to provide the BEST learning experience possible for pupils/students.

I finished off by posing the question – “how many pupils could a teacher genuinely teach to ensure each pupil received the individual attention necessary to satisfy aim number one?”

Having given it some thought, discussed it on-line and discussed it with a teacher I’ve come to the conclusion that the ratio of teacher to pupil would be around 6:1, that’s six pupils/students to one teacher not the other way around. 10:1 is too many 5/6 probably just about right. So I’ll immediately update the aims list as follows –

  1. EVERY pupil/student should achieve their full potential;
  2. EVERY student teacher should achieve their full potential;
  3. There is NO PLACE for politicisation within education;
  4. There is No PLACE for religion in any area of education;
  5. REDUCE the size and influence of local education department to the lowest possible level required to support schools.
  6. EVERY pupil should be treated as an individual and not be subject to a dress code.
  7. Successful methodologies and best practice should be adopted in order to provide the BEST learning experience possible for pupils/students.
  8. The student/pupil teacher ratio should be around 6:1.

The first thought is cost. If the current system is straining to pay for 20:1 then 6:1 would be budget busting, bank account busting and overdraft drowningly expensive. Ah but you may have forgotten about the removal of as much of the local council Education Department. The savings from reducing the number of employees, administration and regulation should adequately pay for the 6:1 ratio.

This ratio would open up teaching as a real career with more layers which teachers could work through to enhance their salary and their standing as the years pass by. However, the advancement of teachers would be based on achievement and experience. There would be far more room for teachers to experiment, build resources, share those resources but advancement would only be measured on single criteria – that pupils/students/ have achieved. No other criteria would be used. Back to the list then.

  1. EVERY pupil/student should achieve their full potential;
  2. EVERY student teacher should achieve their full potential;
  3. There is NO PLACE for politicisation within education;
  4. There is No PLACE for religion in any area of education;
  5. REDUCE the size and influence of local education department to the lowest possible level required to support schools.
  6. EVERY pupil should be treated as an individual and not be subject to a dress code.
  7. Successful methodologies and best practice should be adopted in order to provide the BEST learning experience possible for pupils/students.
  8. The pupil/student ratio should be around 6:1.
  9. Teacher advancement would be measured solely on pupil/student achievement.

The next part is a puzzle. Businesses continue to complain that school leavers and graduates do not have either the skills or the work ethic which businesses require.  I’m not entirely sure they really mean what they say and I can demonstrate it perhaps.

Years ago broadband was being pushed as a business enabler, which every business should have. Business people with a platform warned of the dangers of not having a good quality Internet connection for business to benefit from. I was working with a government agency helping them deliver broadband awareness and options for all sorts of businesses. They kept getting the same complaints and letter were written to the papers saying more should be done.

In order to clarify the demand and the opinions of business people they commissioned a survey. A questionnaire was developed by people who know about these things and more than 3000 businesses were asked about their needs and priorities. The main result provide a top ten list which showed the answers to questions relating to what their priorities were, what they had to have and the effect the wider economy had on them.

Broadband which was expected to be number one was in fact number seven on the list. Rhetoric didn’t match actuals.

I’m sure more progress could be made in helping pupils/students be more suitable for employment. There is a reasonable but neglected mechanism for achieving this.

Any school is at the centre of various communities. There’s the school pupils and staff which is the core, then there’s the parents and families of the pupils which is the first layer. The second layer is the ex-pupils and ex- teachers. The third layer is the community in general where the school is located and the fourth is the assets, which have value to the school within the local community and the local business community in particular.

Involving the business community in schools works although it’s success down to the business people who are involved. Young Enterprise provides access to business people for schools, which provide more of an awareness of the pupils/students of what work and business is about.

Learning how wealth creation works makes pupils/students better consumers as well as understanding how products and services work. It also gives them an insight into the world of work from the viewpoint of recognising an area of activity, which might lead to a potential career for them.

So today’s final aim is added to the list as follows –

  1. EVERY pupil/student should achieve their full potential;
  2. EVERY student teacher should achieve their full potential;
  3. There is NO PLACE for politicisation within education;
  4. There is NO PLACE for religion in any area of education;
  5. REDUCE the size and influence of local education department to the lowest possible level required to support schools.
  6. EVERY pupil should be treated as an individual and not be subject to a dress code.
  7. Successful methodologies and best practice should be adopted in order to provide the BEST learning experience possible for pupils/students.
  8. The pupil/student RATIO should be around 6:1.
  9. Teacher advancement would be measured solely on pupil/student ACHIEVEMENT.
  10.  Schools should EXPLOIT the greater school community to provide a rich content learning experience for pupils/students.
 
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Posted by on February 4, 2012 in Education, Politics

 

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Supplying education

At times you wonder if the people making decisions, which affect, our lives actually know anything about the subject in question? If they do, do they actually see the bigger picture?

Yes, we’re on the subject of education again. You might want to look at Shuggy’s Blog. He makes a good job of laying out the problems and issues relating to Supply Teaching. You will be aware that supply teachers are now paid at the rate of £70.00 per day. That’s pretty much unskilled labour rates. It doesn’t sound like the remuneration that you expect a teacher, who may be responsible for your child, to receive.

I’d like to expand this however. Supply teachers are required when a teacher is away from school which might be for meetings, training, exam development or illness.

If teachers have to go to meetings, training or exam/curriculum/course development it’s not always going to be the case that these can be held after school and also fit within timetabled out of class time. This means there is always going to be a need for that sort of cover. There are probably ways in which this could be reduced however, better planning in schools, appropriate short-term availability of additional staff, Heidies, Depute and Assistant Heidies and/or part-time or job sharing teachers helping out. But there will always be a supply teacher need, even if reduced significantly.

Illness is another issue altogether. Teachers are subjected to any bugs, flu, colds; you name it stuff as they deal with upwards of ten children whilst mixing with many more during a normal school day. That’s unavoidable and results in potentially more time off, but of course there are other factors to consider.

Children shouldn’t really go to school with any sort of infectious condition. If they do they may spread it to other children and of course schoolteachers and staff. If a child takes ill during a school day the parents are advised to keep them off for 48 hours at least. In many cases however, childcare is either too difficult to arrange or too expensive meaning children go to school when they are ill and go back more quickly than they should. Teachers get ill. Some are off for stress, illness or injury whilst a percentage may be swinging the lead as other members of the population do at times.

These are just a small number of issues, which may require supply teachers to be employed. In a lot of cases supply teachers may not be able to put together meaningful lessons or may not be familiar with the subject or confident enough. These situations are the responsibility of senior teaching staff to ensure supply teachers are effective. If they are not, the school will not use them again, providing a level of quality control.

The supply teaching service should be a useful tool for schools to gain access to experienced teachers who have cut their hours or provide an opportunity for newly qualified teachers to gain further experience and teaching practice. It is also of benefit to those teachers who wish to reduce their hours but who, under the current system cannot do so for financial reasons.

The big question is why would the EIS agree to such poor levels of remuneration? There is no merit in saying that supply teachers do not offer the same standard of education as full time teachers. Teaching is not just about teaching it’s about maintaining discipline in class and ensuring the classroom environment is safe and remains so. Again the schools could develop lesson content, which would be used when supply teachers were required and ensure the supply teacher being used is appropriately knowledgable.

I’m assuming that the £70.00 per day rate was negotiated on the basis that the savings from the previously set rate would be used to provide part of the 1% pay increase for full-time teachers. It doesn’t sound as if it has been thought out particularly well.

This leaves education poorer than before. Teachers aren’t going to go to work for £70.00 per day, or rather good teachers aren’t. There is also a human element to this. Local authorities are forever singing the praises of maintaining services in-house as it saves jobs and ensures a better remuneration for workers. Will the councils take the moral view on this and pay more? I doubt it.

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2012 in Education, Politics

 

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Achieving full potential within the entire education system – Part 2

The following article was originally published on the Subrosa Blog and is reproduced here with permission.

Last week I identified the following identified aims which could be considered as potential starting points for improvements to the education system to take place.

Identified aims –

  1. EVERY pupil/student should achieve their full potential;
  2. EVERY student teacher should achieve their full potential;
  3. There is NO PLACE for politicisation within education;
  4. There is No PLACE for religion in any area of education;
  5. REDUCE the size and influence of local education department to the lowest possible level required to support schools.

There are a few loose ends fto clarify rom last week. First, the suggestion that every school should have Cadet training as an activity, primarily as a means of reaching higher levels of discipline from the pupils/students. Cadets would of course be dressed in a military style uniform and be taught to march and to receive instructions, which they should obey without recourse.

This is a bad idea. Militarisation of schools? Using schools as the ground to deal with social ills? Bad idea. Keep the social issues out of schools by dealing with them in society. We don’t want our children cloned, as in wearing any sort of uniform and certainly not military style. We need individuals and a system of teaching, which will engage those who find learning difficult or who do not have achieved access to the types of subjects, which they will enjoy want to do and get benefit from.

That said let’s add another aim to the list of “identified aims”-

  1. EVERY pupil should be treated as an individual and not be subject to a dress code.

Second is Steiner Schools. In truth I’m not a big fan of Steiner. I can see some benefits within the system and if you have a child who has difficulties it seems to help. However, there are elements within the Steiner system, which might benefit al pupils/students.

For example the age at which structured learning begins. As things stand, are our children included in formal education too early? They learn more when they are young is the common argument and that may well be the case but perhaps the type of exposure to education should be much less formal and be more tailored to each child’s maturity and ability?

Considering our aims it’s apparent that ideas and successes should be evaluated from all teaching methodologies, including Steiner, home education, independent, state, teachers and from all corners of the globe. This should provide potential improvements, which are already proven.

The list of “identified aims” now looks like this –

  1. EVERY pupil/student should achieve their full potential;
  2. EVERY student teacher should achieve their full potential;
  3. There is NO PLACE for politicisation within education;
  4. There is No PLACE for religion in any area of education;
  5. REDUCE the size and influence of local education department to the lowest possible level required to support schools.
  6. EVERY pupil should be treated as an individual and not be subject to a dress code.
  7. Successful methodologies and best practice should be adopted in order to provide the BEST learning experience possible for pupils/students.

The list of aims would deliver significant change in the way our children would be educated. I’m sure I read a comment from a teacher heavily involved in developing and introducing the “Curriculum for Excellence. He had come to the conclusion that evolution was not powerful enough; only revolution would provide a curriculum suitable for the 21st century,

Revolution is expensive and the changes would require a number of years to fully develop. Time for another quote “If you think education is expensive – try ignorance” as attributed to Derek Bok, a former Harvard President. All well and good you say what about all the cuts to public spending?

The savings gained through the reduction in size of the Education Department at council level would be used in part to increase the number of teachers per pupil. This would meet the first “identified aim” by providing a completely different environment for teachers to work within.

The question is how many pupils could a teacher genuinely teach to ensure each pupil received the individual attention necessary to satisfy aim number one?

What do you think?

This subject may well take more than three posts to cover.

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2012 in Education

 

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Uniforms, uniformity and individuality, uniqueness

Uniforms. They’re everywhere. In shops, on the street, in shopping malls, railway stations, airports. You name it. Everywhere.

The Polis for example now wear spanking uniforms. Lots of different types. Body armour too. Pointy helmets in the right place only of course. To set the uniforms off Police Cars have gone silver. Very fetching. Even their flashing lights have gone disco and their sirens? Well, if they hear a siren on a USA TV  cop show and it sounds good then it should work equally well in Scotland

The Fire Brigade. They’ve also introduced colour.  They can’t afford to be left behind. They have a sort of mustard thing going on at the moment. Helmets are shaped much more interestingly and even some fire engines have gone white.

Nurses uniforms. Well things have certainly changed since Barbara Windsor squeezed into one. Name a colour and there is a nurse or some other health worker who will have pulled a uniform on in just that colour or shade. Kind of tricky to know who is a nurse and who is an orderly or a cleaner if you don’t have a shade chart though. And ambulances are going yellow.

The Army wear camouflaged uniforms when they are “in theatre”.  The Army kind of needs a uniform. Maybe not all the time but mostly. You don’t want to shoot one of your mates instead of the chap shooting at you because he has the same clothes on now would you? The Red Coat Uniform may not be a great choice these days however. A flamboyance which is no longer affordable.

Hi-viz rules. Elfnsafety likes hi-viz. You’re much less likely to get squished if you wear hi-viz.

So uniforms are for identification, belonging and protection as well as identifying status.

In business the uniform is a suit, collar and tie. It’s not nearly as popular as it used to be. I don’t wear a tie. I wear a suit when I have to but never with a tie. I don’t wear a tie because I just don’t like wearing ties. Most days I’m in jeans. When I worked more in IT than business I worked with businesses who should have had a dress UP Friday. They certainly couldn’t have dressed down any further. There uniform was no uniform.

Uniforms conformity have a place but not in schools.  There is a family not that far from me with two wee girls. One goes to school and other is too young. The older girl wears a school uniform like almost every other child that walks through the school gate. When it’s not a school day the older girl is obviously encouraged to choose the clothes she wears with no guidance or input at all.

Last Saturday Mrs TT and I were at a local arts centre at event and coincidently, so were the family and the wee girls. The older one was dressed as a dragon, complete with tail, the younger sister was a dressed as a fox complete with tail also. Excellent. Other times we’ve seen then the older girl dressed in a myriad of colours. Again excellent.

We want and need our children to be individuals. We want them to be innovative, creative and have the confidence to question. I know the arguments for school uniforms, levelling, encouraging belonging and it looks nice doesn’t it?

Lot’s of schools all over the world don’t have uniforms. Children are in school to learn loads of stuff so they can take their place in society be it as a scientist, artist or any one or more of hundreds of potential careers.

Can’t we let our children be as free as possible, for as long as possible? Can’t we encourage our children to be individuals and not follow the herd? Or at least encourage them to recognise the herd and then personalise it for themselves?

We owe it to our children to help them develop into the people they want to be whilst ensuring they stay outside the walls of the nearest prison unless of course the uniform is quite fetching and it’s lure is undeniable.

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2011 in Education, General

 

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Manufacturing Mantra Part 2

To create an energetic and thriving manufacturing sector we will need a workforce, which is diverse in skills, experience and knowledge. This will require an education system, which is also diverse in skills experience and knowledge, which requires vocational and academic study. What we don’t need is snobbery and elitism in education, which values a degree above everything else. We need people who can do a job, not people who should be able to do a job because they have a piece of paper.

Education delivery should realistically require an element of experience. Theory only goes so far. Theory taught with experience acquired through actually doing it provides a far richer experience for the students. A teacher who has actually worked in manufacturing, business or commerce for real will add essential value for the students. The structure to deliver and support this would require some sort of cyclical approach which would mean the teacher doing a stint of working and then a stint in teaching and so on and so forth to maintain a realistic connection and an up to date understanding of both. This would be relevant for all subjects being taught which are relevant and appropriate to support real economic growth and wealth creation for us all.

Economic growth also requires that the products and services are sellable in other national markets. Our balance of payments and our ability to reduce the debt mountain range will be made easier if we sell our goods and services to the world in general. The bigger the market, the bigger the sale potential there is. Competition? Of course, more than you can imagine and is good for us. But it’s the same for every other country out there and it will always be the same.

Back to our mantra then.

Say after me –

We need an appropriately skilled and knowledgeable workforce who can design and manufacture things, which fulfil needs and wants and will deliver a user experience which people in all markets will buy.

Innovation creates greater opportunities. Look at Dyson, Apple, JCB, Pilkington and many others here in the UK or worldwide. Innovation doesn’t come out of books or out of the mouths of teachers. Innovation comes out of people’s heads.

A previous article I blogged was on helping High School student s understand how value was created. They were asked to add value to a blank sheet of A4 paper. This came as a shock to them since they were used to having things defined and structured for them. They grasped the concept fairly easily once they got going and understood what “added value” meant for them.

The system of education and societal culture change required to deliver continuous innovation is key to the future success of tour economy and our country. Competitors never stand still and those who slow down suffer badly as they fall behind. It’s always harder to catch up. Get out the blocks early, build a lead an maintain it

So the final mantra then.

Say after me –

We need an appropriately skilled and knowledgeable workforce who can design and manufacture innovative products and services, which fulfil needs and wants and will deliver a user experience which people in all markets will buy.

Repeat mantra as often as it takes for the aims to become realities. This will also require the conversion of our political class, which will be the greatest of struggles. They have been educated, for the most part, at Oxbridge and they have been indoctrinated with an anti-manufacturing viewpoint. The system for their education is elitist as it should be to churn out the brightest of people, but it should not be academically elitist to the detriment of other forms of education, which deliver other forms of skills, which are just as essential to our economy.

Germany. Japan, the USA and Italy for example, are all countries, which make things that people want to buy. Their political systems and economies differ from ours and their success in selling products and services around the world also differs. There is nothing wrong in the UK as a whole copying the nest these countries and any other for that matter, have to offer as examples of best practice.

It is to be hoped however, that the UK could very quickly become a place, which other countries would want to emulate. We have been good at sending people to third world countries to help them develop education and infrastructure etc. It would be a true measurement of success if we were being asked to send people to the established successful countries to share our expertise with tem to help them develop and grow. I know we do this at the moment to an extent but it is far from enough.

Remember –

We need an appropriately skilled and knowledgeable workforce who can design and manufacture innovative products and services, which fulfil needs and wants and will deliver a user experience which people in all markets will buy.

Part 1 was published on Friday 2 December 2011.

 
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Posted by on December 5, 2011 in Education, Politics

 

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