AS EVERY parent knows, there is nothing in life as special as a birth. The annual celebration of the birth of Jesus retains its spiritual place and magic among the commercial wrappings, but this year attention focuses on another kind of birth. A thousand years ago the new Millennium was awaited with trepidation by the minority of inhabitants educated enough to know the significance of the date. Y2K concerns apart, there is only a desire this time to be in on a worldwide party courtesy of 24-hour media.
Next week The TES Scotland will publish a history of the past 1,000 years of education, coupled with a little speculation about the future. The past century and the era of compulsory schooling, raises the question: how satisfied should we be with the way things have developed? Expectations have been raised for the whole population, when, for long, the aim was progressively to separate the wheat from the chaff. Only after the Second World War did Scotland have a universal system of secondary schooling, and the comprehensive secondary itself was delayed another 20 years or so. Previously, there was no assumption that everyone had talents to uncover. The idea was that schools prepared most people for the limited role allotted them by their abilities and station. The stresses and strains in schools today are a result of abandoning that philosophy in favour of liberation learning, which will be a still stronger theme next century.