Time for the big education debate – what are we educating for?

Clouds and sky and watery sunshine

Why exactly do we educate people? Is it so they can get jobs, achieve qualifications or to prepare them for society and life?

A new top-level, high-profile seminar series ‘What are we educating for? An Education Policy and Politics Seminar Series’ is all set to find real answers to shape future policy.

The series, which starts this month at the Society of Research into Higher Education in London, will focus on the purpose of all stages of education. The two-hour seminars will run twice a month until May.

Organised and hosted by the Rt Hon Charles Clarke and Professor Paul Ashwin, the Head of the Department of Educational Research at Lancaster University, the seminars will feature a selection of educational practitioners, researchers and policy makers.

These will include former education ministers Kenneth Baker, the Rt Hon the Lord Baker of Dorking and Tessa Blackstone, the Rt Hon the Baroness Blackstone.

The series will explore the interaction of education policy and politics focusing on the question of what are we educating for through the education life cycle.

Paul Ashwin said: “It is really important that we open up debate around questions of what we are educating for.

“There are clear tensions between whether we are educating for employment, for credentials, or to prepare people for engaging with society more broadly but there is little discussion of how these different purposes shape the form and quality of education.

“The quality of education is a vital concern for every family in the country and policies or proposed policies can easily be subjected to ‘scrutiny by focus group’ and have outcomes which bear little relationship to genuine education policy choices.”

Charles Clarke, who is a Visiting Professor in Social and Educational Futures at Lancaster University, said: “There is increasing consensus that our education system needs long-term reform around clear aspirations. These seminars explore those needs and the potential conflicts with short-term political challenges.”

This seminar series is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council’s Impact Acceleration Account and Lancaster University and supported by the British Education Research Association and Society for Research into Higher Education.

It will explore what we are educating for across the whole educational life cycle including:

· Whether what we are educating for changes at different stages and levels of education

· Who should determine what we are educating for and the mechanisms

· The roles of policy-makers, practitioners and researchers in shaping what we are educating for

· The current relationships between policy, practice and research in education and how these could be improved

The first seminar explores these questions across all forms of education. This is followed by five seminars considering these questions in relation to particular stages of education.

The series will cover educating in Early Years, Primary, Secondary, FE and Vocational, HE and Teacher Education and ends with a seminar that reflects on what has come out of the series as a whole.

The panels will be chaired by Charles Clarke and Paul Ashwin. Based on each seminar a blog will be published and these will be brought together in a working paper at the conclusion of the seminar series.

For more information on the seminars you can see the website here: https://www.lancaster.ac.uk/educational-research/research/what-are-we-educating-for/ and the bookings for the first two seminars here on 15th February and 23rd February.

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