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Not in the real world

BUSINESS leaders want a more skilled and adaptable workforce, but judged by their new report (page four) they have little idea how to achieve it. The CBI Scotland claims to be radical in its criticism of the school curriculum, which it says is failing young people by under-preparing them for the jobs market of the future. Some subjects will have to go or have their time allocation reduced, the CBI demands, so that core skills receive greater attention.

Such a reading of school life suggests that more businessmen should spend time in the country's classrooms and staffrooms. Even a closer reading of documents from the Scottish Consultative Council on the Curriculum and the Scottish Qualifications Authority would have made the penners of the "radical" report temper their uninformed speculations.

It is absurd to set subjects against core skills. Just because Higher Still will soon award pupils for mastery of skills such as numeracy and information technology, even the mos cursory observer should not be misled into thinking that skills can be pursued in isolation. The workplace develops technical expertise and interpersonal relations through employees tackling practical problems and learning from them. In school, core skills are practised as a result of good teaching. History, one of the subjects which the CBI would downgrade, is widely recognised as excellent training in sifting evidence and compiling an argument, core skills surely in any businessman's book.

The CBI ventures into McCrone territory. Ahead of the committee of inquiry, it suggests that teachers should be rewarded for extra qualifications and good results. If the problems of identifying and recognising performance were so easily overcome, the McCrone inquiry would probably not have had to be convened. But the measures by which business success is judged cannot be translated into schools. Here again the CBI lays itself open to the charge of well-intentioned naivety.

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