Thursday, 28 July 2011

Can enterprise education help the UK economy?

Figures released this week by the Office for National Statistics point to a weaker than expected UK economic recovery, with a growth rate of just 0.2% in the second quarter of 2011. Many economists worry that the government’s rapid deficit reduction plan is having an adverse effect on economic performance. But, as we scrutinise the figures and scratch our heads over how best to grow the economy and compete globally, it’s also time to consider how we shape our education policy to meet future demands.

For years successive governments have placed education at the centre of their campaigns, to make the UK much more competitive. Under John Major’s leadership, education was highlighted as an area of focus in his Back to Basics campaign. Under Blair’s premiership this was reflected in the “education, education, education” mantra.

But as the former business secretary Lord Mandelson admitted in a BBC Newsnight interview this week, his and previous Governments got it wrong. Mandelson acknowledged that from “the 1980’s the entire government machine was geared to the belief that we in Britain can no-longer be an engineering, manufacturing, advance technology economy and when Labour came in 1997 they continued that policy too far, too much.”

Despite an expansion in the number of further and higher education places, it seems that very little has been done to change direction, reversing a policy bias against (STEM’s) Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. This might in part, help explain why our economic fortunes are now looking worrying.

To help shape future education policy and understand how best to grow our economy, the Pearson Centre for Policy and Learning is researching enterprise education. Through consultation with learners, businesses, education practitioners, stakeholders and government we aim to explore what it is, how can it be delivered and what might be the long-term benefits for people, the economy and society. This research will lead to a series of policy recommendations that will hopefully chart a better course for future economic growth. Only time and the quality of our research will reveal whether enterprise education can help the UK economy.

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