Small-minded dangers

2nd September 2005 at 01:00
The Learning and Skills Development Agency's recent report ('Colleges should look closer to home for ideas", TES, August 19) rightly points out that all parts of the UK have much to learn from one another as they tackle solutions to common issues. The Association of Colleges equally argues that there is a huge amount that all four parts of the UK can learn by looking beyond the UK.

The report claims that policies and practices do not transfer well from one country to another. But sharing best practice and learning from international partners should never be about transplanting one country's model on to another.

It is about improving our knowledge and understanding of the wider world, learning from mistakes as well as successes and adapting solutions best suited to each country's own unique social, economic and cultural context.

We have some shining examples in UK FE of how home students, employers and local communities have benefited enormously from colleges' international links.

Where better to investigate training solutions for new UK jobs in a Vegas-style redevelopment than with an American employer? Would a college seeking to improve its own and local employers' understanding of the cultural and ethnic background of its diverse student community and local workforce really be best advised to forget about links with the heritage countries?

Yes, we should be doing far more to cross-fertilise ideas between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - but any notion that we will then have little to learn from other countries is not only small minded, but dangerous.

Jo Clough International Policy Manager Association of Colleges London WC1

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