THERE IS no doubt that there is a new feeling across the country. The me-first society seems to have been replaced by a more compassionate and consensual society. In education, partnership is certainly on the agenda.
My own organisation, Edexcel Foundation, was created from a partnership of two organisations, BTEC and London Examinations. Our partnership was not born from government intervention, nor as a reaction to other external pressures. We had taken a long look at the world around us, recognised that it was changing, and that the skills and needs of individuals would also need to change if they were to be better equipped for the fray ahead. So, we put together an academic and a vocational awarding body and set about creating an organisation committed to success in partnership with its customers across the spectrum of lifelong learning.
Edexcel now inhabits a unique position. We are the only awarding body with roots that spread from schools, through colleges and higher education institutions and into employers. The breadth of our business means we work with every sector, understand the pressures they face, share best practice and, importantly, encourage them to work together.
Too often institutions are pitched against each other. Schools fight against colleges, colleges against higher education institutions, each hungry for more students and, thus, more funding. In part, I support this because competition in any industry brings benefits, but when that competition is unbridled we should re-examine our way of working to see if progress cannot be better achieved some other way.
I believe that all education, not just vocational, should be focused on preparing people for the world of work, enabling individuals to develop their potential, thereby equipping our nation with a highly skilled workforce. For that reason we believe strongly that educational institutions should establish more partnerships with employers and enable them to take a stake in the education system. The foundations are there. Edexcel's own Education at Work Award recognises an employer who has taken a stake in the life of a college of further education. Some of the examples of such commitment that emerged last year were extraordinary, but these are the exceptions and we need to put greater effort into making them the rule.
We must also recognise that our education system, and the world of education, does not end at our national boundaries. In education it really is true to say that the world is getting smaller.
Increasingly any nation's qualifications will be as valid abroad as they are in their country of origin. This is already taking place. In the oil industry, for example, employees move frequently from one country to another and need constantly to update their training and have with them internationally recognised, portable qualifications. And the demand for English qualifications is stronger than for any other.
English is increasingly becoming the first language of the world. The new ``national'' language for the European Union is English, the language of information technology is English, as is the language of air travel. With this greater acceptance of our language, our qualifications are increasingly being sought to measure the abilities of people throughout the world.
This international dimension was a natural progression for Edexcel. Our coming together has enabled us to begin to meet this growing demand and to reach out beyond our own nation to form partnerships with employers and educators the world over.
In the time since the formation of Edexcel we have put weight behind enabling and facilitating partnerships in every sector. We will continue to do so, believing that the future for our system and for the health of our qualifications at home and abroad lies in bringing people together to work towards a simple shared goal - better education and training for all. Wealth creation coupled with enhancement of personal satisfaction should be the ambition.