Wednesday, 7 December 2005

........ the Adult Learning Inspectorate (ALI) said the initiative was not working, despite the "extraordinary" amount of money the government had spent on it.
So how much is an extraordinary amount of money these days? Well according to the ALI it's 2 billion quid. And what initiative has failed despite this healthy lump of change? Well it is "Skills for Life" a project announced a couple of years ago to try and deal with the problems we face because some 50% of adults in this country do not have adequate literacy and/or numeracy skills. Of course these tend to be the same people who are being shafted by life in general and are those that the government likes to refer to as "disadvantaged" but those who David Sherlock, the Chief Inspector of the ALI, has pointed out are being let down by the state edcation system. He goes on to say that
"We cannot get away from the fact that the adult learning sector is distorted to deal with the shortcomings of our schools system. Until we deal with our failure to properly equip so many young people for adulthood, let alone successful careers, we cannot hope to build a world-beating adult skills strategy."
Whoops! Of course what does Mr Sherlock know? He's just a bloke paid to inspect adult learning in England. No. If you want the authorised version along comes Skills minister Phil Hope (You couldn't make that up could you?),
"We are on course to meet our target of improving the skills of 2.25 million adults by 2010."
I'm not the world's best at sums but if we divvy up two billion between two and a quarter million it's about 890 quid each (isn't it?)*. Now that's going to get you a few hours of decent tuition I promise, in fact if anyone wants to bung me 450 quid I'll happily help them study to get through English and IT GCSEs or similar, but I think the major flaw in all this is that as more people become numerate even more of us will ask what the hell the government is doing spending our money in such a stupid manner.

* According to Wikipedia an English billion is 10^9

9 careful considerations:

Bluefluff said...

I can't do sums either, but does Britain still use the British billion?

Rob Spence said...

"more people become numerate" - are you sure about that? Anecdotal evidence (kids who can't add up three and twelve without using a calculator etc) suggests otherwise.

kat said...

Rant Warning

2 billion may well buy a few GCSEs but I don't think it will wave any magic wands or reach the people who need it the most. How can we ask or expect people with little hope for their own future, or who have little trust in the system, to simply settle themselves down and study for GCSEs? Why would they want to? Where is the proof that getting a GCSE actually helps you to manage your money and your life? As well as having little or no confidence in the system many young people and adults, from poor backgrounds, have little confidence in themselves or their abilities. How on earth have these kids managed to get through a school system completely unaware of any natural abilities or strengths yet fully aware of every single shortcoming. Hauling them all in and getting them to sit test after test re literacy and numeracy ( stats exercises ) and continually pointing out all their weaknesses will not flaming work. If a system tells a person he is a failure, he will be a failure. Shifting money around and keeping (and/or manipulating) statistics will not alter that. Too much emphasise on testing and statistics, rather than learning, in my opinion.

Nogbad said...

According to Wikipedia we do but if we use the other one it's even worse, 10^12!

I've heard these tales too Rob but I wonder whether we might usefully shift our frame of reference? I've worked in pubs pre-EPOS and adding up numbers while serving a round was a very valuable skill but does it have the same value now? I know that the automatic reaction will be "Yes!" but look at the other basic skills we now assume - the main one being IT literacy. No argument that we have people poorly equipped to deal with the world but are we applying valid "tests"?

Kat - I don't disagree but my point, and it's the one made by Sherlock and the ALI, is that this is a great deal of money which is being wasted. And while we might agree that there is more testing than learning I wonder how we identify the people i most need without some objective tests? GCSEs are of little value to many of the people in teh target groups but if someone is spending 2 bn of my cash I want some measure of success, I really do! And don't forget that this follows on from Blair's screw up with ILAs where crooks were lining up to take the money. I think the issue is that whatever we should be doing we shouldn't be doing what we are doing right now but, and this is the tricky bit, wat should we be doing? And that 2 bn quid is still a considerable amount of wonga that would be better used elsewhere wouldn't it?

Observation of Teaching & Learning said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
kat said...

Just off the top of my head and because I am trying to beat a deadline and shouldn't be here at all, I think we should ask people what they think their needs are. They are far more likely to know than any government minister.

I posted under the wrong username there. That's what you get for rushing and doing two things at once. :-)

kat said...

Does anyone think it is right that the goverment should set specific and narrow learning targets for adults? (In some cases they are almost forcing adults or young people into compulsory education and using our money to do it.)
When Hope says "We are on course to meet our target" he has absolutely no hope unless the learners have the same target in mind". His only other hope is that someone plays with the figures. If adults were there because they wanted to be there then I think the results, either qualifications or good feedback and progression, would moreorless just happen. My point is that some of the people most in need also want to learn but current approaches aren't right for them - Too rigid and full of tests.

Nogbad said...

When Hope says "We are on course to meet our target" he has absolutely no hope unless the learners have the same target in mind"

I agree with all you've said (to greater or lesser extents) but this is the critical thing I think. It's another example of the oerarching patronising approach to "education" and "learning" that exemplifies policy through the years. Governments repeat the matra that "we know what is best" and then throw money at the "problem" but rarely the correct problem.

Does anyone think it is right that the goverment should set specific and narrow learning targets for adults?

Yes. Governments clearly do. Many providers do - it garners funds. Employers do - they understand that a bit of paper means that someone has attained a quantifiable level of achievement. Sadly Kat it's "easy". We can slag of the government for "wasting" shedloads of cash but they will wring their hands and say "we're trying". Politicians realy, really don't know any better. Scools are failing people and colleges are failing people. Politicians say they've tried to make it easier for people to enter HE - "We're trying" so if people aren't getting there it must be "their" fault! Blair will point at the numbers which show that the UK workforce now has more qualifications than it did 10 years ago - and that's true - but the bits of paper mean little if anything. An OCN certificate in being a playground supervisor means a good deal to the holder and even more to Blair et al but, in the whole scheme of things, means less than a hill of beans. In the context of the world the UK still has a high level of literacy, in comparison with the US we are streets ahead, but in real terms I can drive 5 miles from here and see people who are not equipped to deal with the knowledge economy and have no skills to sell in the workplace of the early 21st century. These are people who are not hampered by any of the recognisable learning difficulties, these are not people with any of the spectrum of disorders which make learning to read and write a mountain - they are people who made the stupid mistake of being born where they were born and that, ultimately, is the biggest sin. I know it's a heresy but we have sink schools wheer teachers are engaged in crowd control (which they are good at) rather than helping children learn (which many are crap at). We use the school system as a way of keeping children off the streets rather than enthusing them about knowledge, we use education as a machine to churn out "workers". We can't change it overnight and if we want to get where we want to be it's not easy starting where we are but Einstein said that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome is the true definition of insanity.

Bottom line? I don't know the answer and I don't even know the start of all the questions but I do have a really good feel that we are not even getting close. I do know, and I'm prepared to bet anything anyone wants, that we're no closer to sorting this out than we were before anyone started writing the cheques that stack up to an amazing two billion pounds.

Nogbad said...

Sorry for the typos in that comment but the browser is messing about (I'm using Opera rather than Firefox) and it looks different when posted to the draft view!