Cut complacency, develop diplomas

13th June 2008 at 01:00
The current push for further education reform is a welcome response to the neglect that this key area has suffered over the past few decades

The current push for further education reform is a welcome response to the neglect that this key area has suffered over the past few decades. And to ensure a lasting foundation for vocational learning and training, a focus on quality and not simply quantity is important ("Low diploma take- up `not a bad thing'", FE Focus, May 30).

However, colleges, policymakers and industry must not be complacent that the introduction of what the Association of Colleges has called "the greatest curriculum reform for a generation" - 14-19 diplomas - will automatically fill the nation's skills gaps. The fact that take-up of the diplomas for September is around half as much as expected should be cause for concern.

One way to address the issue of the diploma's effectiveness is to ensure there are clear progression routes in terms of further technical study and careers advice. This must be done to give diplomas equal currency with the A-level.

On numerous occasions, employers have cited the need for individuals to have good technical skills, as well as good presentation, time management, communication and problem-solving skills, and the ability to work under their own initiative. These transferable life skills should be embedded in the diploma's philosophy and structure.

Furthermore, it is imperative that the diploma, its levels and content are readily understandable to employers and other stakeholders, such as parents, learners, teachers and higher education institutions.

Professor Sa'ad Medhat, Chief executive, New Engineering Foundation.

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