Gove vs. (some) Academics. Two Views Of (Careers?) Education

Michael Gove in the news again over criticism from a group of 100 experts who claim his new blueprint for the national curriculum is “narrow” would “severely erode educational standards” and is made up of  “endless lists of spellings, facts and rules”.

Gove himself has responded taunting the academics for the apparently not wanting pupils to “learn things.” What this highlights is a divide between two very different schools of thought. Gove has called for an end to prejudice and instead to “discover what really works.” He wants to brand himself as a practical man after results while academics sit in their ivory towers having complicated but irrelevant discussions. I don’t think things are so simple, there is a top level big picture division between how Gove sees education and how the academics who wrote to the Independent do.

I feel this comes down to Gove wanting kids to know the right things (hence the taunting comments about children learning things). While the academics want students who by implication are able to solve problems, think critically and creatively.

Now what is this discussion doing on a careers blog? Well I feel this discussion spills over into careers education in two big ways. Firstly the two systems have very different places for careers work. In Gove’s system careers and education are separate  education is about learning things about important subjects while careers is about learning about the world of work and how to communicate yourself. Education gives you a resource, careers work allows you to find a place to use this resource. In contrast the view from the academics would encourage a view of careers as one area that a fundamental set of attributes was delivered in. Just as you would use problem solving and critical thinking skills in Chemistry or History you would use the same skills to explore your career. This puts careers alongside other subjects as a place where a fundamental set of skills is put into practice. You could see this as a split between the knowledge and skills categories in Blooms learning taxonomy. Either way both represent different ways of understanding education and so my guess would be that they would relate to careers work differently.

Secondly both represent different ways of doing careers education itself. If Gove where to design a careers ed program I would guess he would want to focus on concrete facts and understandings. He would want students to have a good grasp of labor market information, to know what recruiters wants, to have a CV, to have memorized 10 top tips for interview success etc. In short a similar view to what lots of employ-ability work is. I would wager that the academics would be less interested in knowing labor market info and be more concerned in the ability to research and appraise knowledge for themselves. Equally interviews are less about pre-packaged solution but using critical thinking to produce and test their own solutions.

The take away questions are do you want to be part of an education system that imparts measurable knowledge or one that imparts skills? And do you want to give “information”,”facts” and top tips to your students or do you want to give them a set of skills that can transfer across disciplines?

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