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Becoming the Great Meritocracy: The Rise of Education in Britain

by John Brian Shannon | September 15, 2016

Prime Minister Theresa May says she wants Great Britain to become the world’s Great Meritocracy and one of the ways she intends to accomplish it, is by raising the priority given to education.

Which is brilliant! Of all the ways to spend taxpayer money to Build a Better Britain, equipping young minds to become all they can and should be must rank highest of all.

Much has been vocalized via the anecdotes of those who attended Grammar schools in Britain in the 1950’s-1980’s era who had decidedly poor experiences. In that era, education (and other parts of society) weren’t all that they could and should’ve been, and some schools, whether Grammar, Comprehensive, Modern, Academy, Faith, or Private, were downright terrible. And that is a shame.

But because a minority of students were badly educated or badly treated (or both) in various locations across the country, does not mean that Britain should close all schools or demonize certain kinds of schools.

Rather, let’s roll up our sleeves, find out what needs to be fixed and how to fix it, and Build a Better Britain

On that note, Grammar schools must be doing something right as the current Prime Minister and three members of her cabinet were educated in Grammar schools. Other PM’s and cabinet ministers over the years have likewise attended Grammars.

Read: Theresa May may see off Tory grammar school rebels, but her plans won’t survive unscathed

Due to the focus put on Britain’s education system by PM Theresa May, the comment forms at several UK websites show many people railing against the so-called 11+ exams (that’s the age the children take the exam) saying that they put undue pressure on students and parents, and that the result of one series of exams can turn a student’s entire future for the worse.

Accordingly, any blame for the pressure felt by students and parents in regards to the 11+ gets transferred onto the Grammar schools which, not incidentally, are performing wonderfully.

Britain Education system

Clearly, the problem is the 11+ exam system itself, where parents feel they must hire (perhaps expensive) tutors to prep their child for the exam, and where the cost of failure breeds fear among students.

Miserable and over-pressured students do not learn well

Some children are late-bloomers and might fail the 11+ exam, but those same kids could hit their stride by age 12 or 13. For some students, it just takes the ‘right teacher’ to make learning fun and and they begin to excel for no apparent reason.

Once you have that going for you, exams are just enough of a challenge to keep your interest but not knock you off the planet with dread.

Therefore, let’s keep the 11+ exam, but normalize it by requiring one every subsequent year. To ensure that children get the best chance in life, let them take a 12+, a 13+, a 14+ and so on, until they have completed their primary and secondary education. Students could move to a Grammar when they are ready, while other children could leave Grammar school, returning to their Comprehensive or other school if they find that a Grammar isn’t working for them.

In that way children will find the school that is most appropriate to them, at the time they’re ready for it

There’s room for improvement in the British educational system and a simple course correction might be all that’s needed.

Here are three ways to improve educational outcomes for students:

  1. Instead of 11+ exams taken at age 11 (and only age 11) that can determine a child’s entire educational future based on one exam, add 12+, 13+, 14+ and 15+ exams to the mix. In that way, children will find the most appropriate school for them.
  2. Increased funding for schools, particularly at the pre-school and early development stages.
  3. Vocational schools that teach the academic programme, but are geared to appeal to those kids who know they want to work with their hands; The future home builders and skyscraper constructors, the automotive, rail, and aircraft manufacturers and maintenance staff of the 21st century. And so much more.

Instead of shooting for a minimum standard, Britain’s government should be empowering all of Britain’s students to become all that they can and should be whether they choose to become an Accountant or a Zoologist, or anything in between.

But whatever path they choose, let’s give them the ability to be the very best Accountant or Zoologist they can be.

That’s what it will take for Great Britain to become the world’s Great Meritocracy.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe quote

Building a Better Britain with Higher Education

by John Brian Shannon | September 1, 2016

Q: What is the Thousand Ton Elephant in the Room?
A: All countries with tuition-free university have ultra-low crime statistics

How many PhD’s have a criminal record? None. You simply won’t have the opportunity to earn a PhD if you have a criminal record. You will hear the words, ‘Sorry old boy, you just don’t make the cut’ and your university application gets tossed in the bin. So much for that plan.

However, it’s within the realm of possibility that if you searched the globe high and low, you might find a handful of PhD’s who’ve been convicted of criminal offenses after having obtained their credentials; But on the main, those with ultra-high levels of education are famous for avoiding criminal activity.

This is interesting because it applies not only to those with a Doctorate degree, but similarly to those with a Masters degree. In fact, anyone with even a minor college degree is likely to have less involvement with criminal activity than the general non-degree, non-MBA, and non-PhD population.

These people have a real life, a real opportunity to get ahead the moment they finish their university education, and they tend to have stronger family ties. They simply have far too much to lose by throwing it away engaging in any sort of criminal or unethical behavior.

Q: What percentage of Americans have a PhD?

A: According to U.S. Census 2013 data, 1.68 percent of Americans over the age of 25 have a PhD. This equates to approximately 2.5 million people. People with professional degrees such as MD or DDS make up 1.48 percent of the U.S. population, making the total percentage of Americans referred to as ‘Doctors’ equal to 3.16 percent. — Reference.com

Their cohort contributes much to the success of the country and is responsible for the fewest crimes on a per capita basis (especially violent crimes) which is important in a country with 16,121 homicides in 2015 and a homicide rate of 5.1 per 100,000 people.

It should be noted that the employment rate for those with Doctorate degrees in the United States is a lowish 76%. Those unemployed Professors may either be retired, happily travelling the globe on sabbatical, or unemployed. But in America, it has been acknowledged universities there produce more Profs than the U.S. requires in any given year, therefore, unemployment can be a concern for American PhD’s.

In the United Kingdom, via the innovative NewRoutePhD initiative, the focus is on obtaining employment for students once they obtain their credentials.

Also in the UK, there is heavy emphasis on the disciplines of Politics and International Relations, Psychology, and Chemistry which are highly valued by companies and universities in the United Kingdom and throughout Europe. PhD students in the UK know they won’t be unemployed once their education is completed.

Also in high demand in the UK are so-called Research Degrees which can range in quality from a simple degree, to an MBA degree, or even a PhD level degree where world class research is being conducted every day within the university by students in engineering and the social sciences.

Q: What is the New Route PhD?

A: The New Route PhD is a national initiative to equip PhD students with the skills they need to pursue successful careers as leaders in universities, companies, government or the public services.

It provides doctoral students with the highest quality of taught materials and practical experience alongside advanced research. This integrated approach offers students a learning environment in which to broaden and deepen subject knowledge and professional skills while providing the opportunity for interdisciplinary study to extend their expertise in new directions.

This innovative and seamless scheme has the full support of the UK government, the Higher Education Funding Council of England (HEFCE) and the British Council. It meets UK doctoral standards and the principles laid down by the Quality Assurance Agency of the UK, including normal quality assurance mechanisms such as assessment hurdles and the provision of external examiners.

In terms of the research student experience as well as the standing and value of the awards for which New Route PhD™ students study, this programme is a landmark in the provision of education excellence.

The New Route PhD™ is an exciting alternative to — not a replacement for — a traditional PhD. Successful New Route PhD™ graduates will have obtained professional and transferable skills that form a major part of the programme. For those pursuing university teaching careers, the Certificate in Learning and Teaching, which is an optional part of the programme, is an invaluable qualification in its own right. — Global Vision

Many countries have looked at the benefits of providing tuition-free university education for citizens and non-citizen residents and have found the so-called side benefits to be (arguably) an even greater benefit than having a highly educated workforce.

Countries like Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Germany, France, and recently Chile, have noticed that since they began offering tuition-free university education, their crime statistics have dropped remarkably.

Other countries charge a very nominal fee that allows students to study and obtain a useful degree at very reasonable cost in Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Greece, Italy, and Spain. While other countries such as Argentina, India, and Taiwan offer some novel solutions for obtaining a university degree at a very low cost. Taipei, Taiwan was voted the most affordable city for university students in 2015. — Where Can You Study Abroad for Free?

In Norway, any citizen or non-citizen resident can obtain a free university education by simply applying to any public university. Many people in the country have at least one degree, while others have several.

Maybe that’s one reason why Norway is awash in success!

(Excerpted from The Secret of Norway’s Success)

  • Norway has the highest accumulated revenue surplus in the world, worth $1.3 Trillion+ (held in the world’s largest sovereign fund)
  • Strong and steady GDP growth that beats any stock exchange growth in any year
  • Exceptionally low Debt-to-GDP
  • A very high ranking on the UN Happiness Index
  • A very high ranking on the Social Progress Index
  • Typically a #1 or #2 ranking on the highest per capita income in the world
  • In the Top 5 worker productivity rankings in Europe (and by extension, the world)
  • One of the lowest crime rates in the world
  • One of the ‘least corrupt’ nations. Ranked #5 on the Corruption Perception Index
  • An average 2.5% unemployment rate (except during the global financial crisis where it shot up to 5.5%) Not to worry, it’s already fallen to 3.0%
  • Free university tuition for all citizens and residents
  • Free universal healthcare ranked 7th in the world (It would rank higher, but maintaining full-service Hospitals in remote regions with tiny populations is uneconomical)
  • Virtually 100% of the country is powered by renewable energy except for some remote settlements where a microgrid (natural gas power) is the only choice
  • Unparalleled diplomatic credentials. Everyone knows Norwegians are among the best ‘honest brokers’ in the diplomatic world making Norway the ‘go-to’ arbitrators for nations in crisis
  • A favorite country of the Olympics committee having hosted successful games twice in recent years

Also notable about the Norwegian example is that the homicide rate is practically non-existent — as there is typically less than one murder per year in the entire country.

With the influx of refugees in recent years, pickpocketing and burglary and other theft have increased, but the Oslo Police have since ramped-up their response with the result that such crimes are now decreasing. — United States Department of State, Bureau of Diplomatic Security (OSAC)

Following the Norwegian example of higher learning, resulting in a more vibrant and educated society and concomitantly a lower crime society, is the way To Build a Better Britain.

Spend More on Education / Less on Prisons

If Prime Minister Theresa May really wants to build a better Britain, the best way to accomplish it is to provide tuition-free university education for UK citizens at public universities, and in so doing, dramatically improve the lives of British citizens and their employers while growing demand all over the globe for the valuable and world class knowledge of Britons.

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