I have just finished reading Ivan Illich's Deschooling Society, for what must be the fourth time since it was first introduced to me when I was studying for my sociology A-level. What strikes me is how completely relevant the book seems, in spite of having been written in 1971. While I do not agree with all Illich says - his advocacy for education vouchers strikes a particularly contemporary note - his arguments are refreshingly radical, forcing us to reappraise basic questions about the nature of education, what people need to know, and how learning is best secured. His key points - that the school curriculum has little relevance for many young people, and that universal schooling simply secures qualification inflation (always favouring the wealthy) - have never looked so relevant.
Professor Becky Francis is director of education at the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA).