Beware the utilitarian rationale, Mrs Shephard

21st July 1995 at 01:00
Is it really a good idea to put education and employment together? I am sure there is general acceptance of the need to improve the integration of the academic and the vocational. Doubtless the integration of bureaucracies was one point. But it was not the only one - and what will its long-term effect be?

We should note with concern the comment of Howard Davies, the director general of the Confederation of British Industry: "The proposed structure will help to provide a clearer focus to educational policy-making." He sees employment needs driving education.

But education isn't just about work - it is about life. If we take average longevity as 80, we will only spend half of our lifetime in work. And do we really expect there to be full employment for all in, say, 10 years - when our current Year 1 children are beginning to enter the employment arena?

In that context, do we want our children's learning to be governed by a philosophy which says that education is for work?

We should beware the utilitarian rationale which says that economic prosperity is the only goal and that education should be aligned to employers' needs. Education needs some of that, but there must be a balance.

Mrs Shephard's new ministry creates an imbalance - one, too, which I regret that a Labour government is likely to perpetuate.

JOHN W COCKSHOTT 41 Grove Road Ilkley, West Yorkshire

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