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Education And Its Role In The Development Of Children

1643 words - 7 pages

Education and Its Role in the Development of Children
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Education in Britain as changed greatly since World War II, mainly due to the 1944 Education Act, which made secondary education free and compulsory until the age of 15 years. The views taken of education and its importance in national, economic and political terms have varied a great deal since then with each new government: there have been many good intentions but too few initiatives taken to achieve the ideal system. Unfortunately this means that, unless you are white, male, middle class and non-handicapped, the institution of the school may not be very helpful to your development, and your days at school may be remembered as a time of prejudice, frustration and lost opportunities.

The immediate post-war period in Britain constituted a new way of thinking about public and private life. There were many promises heralding a better life for everyone, including the provision of free, compulsory secondary education: public education came to be seen as a 'bastion of national recovery' (T.E.S., Gosden, 1983). Pupils were regarded as having different types of skills, and comprehensivisation was not yet a goal; instead three types of school were suggested: grammar, technical and secondary modern (Finch, 1984), with grammar schools continuing to be seen as superior and biased towards middle-class boys. The 1959 Crowther Report recommended raising the school leaving age to 16 years, the introduction of comprehensive school and a new exam below GCE level; however, these moves towards equal opportunities were not completed until the 1970s. Similarly, the 1983 Newsom Report argued that pupils of below average ability should receive a greater share of resources, and recommended improved teacher training. These two reports suggested that not only had the system failed to achieve equal opportunities, but that it did not genuinely want to do so.

From the 1960s onwards, education was seen more and more in the context of economics (Dale, 1989); an instrument of national interest rather than personal fulfilment. It was during this period that the question of racial and ethnic minority groups entered the debate for the first time, due to increasing immigration. However, it was taken for granted that these children needed to become like the white population as quickly as possible, and so little genuine progress was made (Finch, 1984). Despite the lack of enthusiasm from Conservative Governments, comprehensivisation accelerated in the 1970s, so that by 1974, 62% of secondary pupils were in comprehensive schools. Mrs.Thatcher, as, Education Secretary, did little to slow down the erosion of education as an instrument of social improvement; her first action was to remove free school milk for children over seven and her ideas indicated a departure from the principles of 1944: a strong emphasis on standards, and a fear of the power of teachers.

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