Рефераты. Education in Britain

in Britain is partly due to middle-class fears concerning comprehensive

schools, but also to the mediocre quality possible in the state sector

after decades of inadequate funding.

Although the percentage of those privately educated may be a small

fraction of the total, its importance is disproportionate to its size, for

this 8 per cent accounts for 23 per cent of all those passing A levels, and

over 25 per cent of those gaining entry to university. Nearly 65 per cent

of pupils leave fee-paying schools with one or more A levels, compared with

only 14 per cent from comprehensives. Tellingly, this 8 per cent also

accounts for 68 per cent of those gaining the highest grade in GCSE

Physics. During the 1980s pupils at independent schools showed greater

improvement in their examination results than those at state schools. In

later life, those educated at fee-paying schools dominate the sources of

state power and authority in government, law, the armed forces and finance.

The 'public' (in fact private, fee-paying) schools form the backbone

of the independent sector. Of the several hundred public schools, the most

famous are the 'Clarendon Nine', so named after a commission of inquiry

into education in 1861. Their status lies in a fatally attractive

combination of social superiority and antiquity, as the dates of their

foundation indicate: Winchester (1382), Eton (1440), St Paul's (1509),

Shrewsbury (1552), Westminster (1560), The Merchant Taylors' (1561), Rugby

(1567), Harrow (1571) and Charterhouse (1611).

The golden age of the public schools, however, was the late nineteenth

century, when most were founded. They were vital to the establishment of a

particular set of values in the dominant professional middle classes. These

values were reflected in the novel Tom Brown's Schooldays by Thomas Hughes,

written in tribute to his own happy time at Rugby School. Its emphasis is

on the making of gentlemen to enter one of the professions: law, medicine,

the Church, the Civil Service or the colonial service. The concept of

'service', even if it only involved entering a profitable profession, was

central to the public school ethos. A career in commerce, or 'mere money

making' as it is referred to in Tom Brown's Schooldays, was not to be

considered. As a result of such values, the public school system was

traditional in its view of learning and deeply resistant to science and

technology. Most public schools were located in the 'timeless' countryside,

away from the vulgarity of industrial cities.

After 1945, when state-funded grammar schools were demonstrating equal

or greater academic excellence, the public schools began to modernise

themselves. During the 1970s most of them abolished beating and 'fagging',

the system whereby new boys carried out menial tasks for senior boys, and

many introduced girls into the sixth form, as a civilising influence. They

made particular efforts to improve their academic and scientific quality.

Traditionally boarding public schools were more popular, but since the

1970s there has been a progressive shift of balance in favour of day

schools. Today only 16 per cent of pupils in private education attend

boarding schools, and the number of boarders declines on average by 3 per

cent each year.

Demand for public school education is now so great that many schools

register pupils' names at birth. Eton maintains two lists, one for the

children of 'old boys' and the other for outsiders. There are three

applicants for every vacancy. Several other schools have two applicants for

each vacancy, but they are careful not to expand to meet demand. In the

words of one academic, 'Schools at the top of the system have a vested

interest in being elitist. They would lose that characteristic if they

expanded. To some extent they pride themselves on the length of their

waiting lists.' This rush to private education is despite the steep rise in

fees, 31 per cent between 1985 and 1988, and over 50 per cent between 1990

and 1997 when the average annual day fees were Ј5,700 and boarding fees

double that figure. Sixty per cent of parents would probably send their

children to fee-paying schools if they could afford to.

In order to obtain a place at a public school, children must take a

competitive examination, called 'Common Entrance'. In order to pass it,

most children destined for a public school education attend a preparatory

(or 'prep') school until the age of 13.

Independent schools remain politically controversial. The Conservative

Party believes in the fundamental freedom of parents to choose the best

education for their children. The Labour Party disagrees, arguing that in

reality only the wealthier citizens have this freedom of choice. In the

words of Hugh Gaitskell, the Labour leader in 1953, 'We really cannot go on

with a system in which wealthy parents are able to buy what they and most

people believe to be a better education for their children. The system is

wrong and must be changed.' But since then no Labour government has dared

to abolish them.

There can be no doubt that a better academic education can be obtained

in some of the public schools. In 1993 92 of the 100 schools with the best

A-level results were fee-paying. But the argument that parents will not

wish to pay once state schools offer equally good education is misleading,

because independent schools offer social status also. Unfortunately

education depends not only on quality schools but also on the home

environment. The background from which pupils come greatly affects the

encouragement they receive to study. Middle-class parents are likely to be

better able, and more concerned, to support their children's study than low-

income parents who themselves feel they failed at school. State-maintained

schools must operate with fewer resources, and in more difficult

circumstances, particularly in low-income areas. In addition, the public

school system creams off many of the ablest teachers from the state sector.

The public school system is socially divisive, breeding an atmosphere

of elitism and leaving some outside the system feeling socially or

intellectually inferior, and in some cases intimidated by the prestige

attached to public schools. The system fosters a distinct culture, one

based not only upon social superiority but also upon deference. As one

leading journalist, Jeremy Paxman, himself an ex-public schoolboy remarked,

The purpose of a public school education is to teach you to respect people

you don't respect.' In the words of Anthony Sampson, himself an ex-pupil of

Westminster, the public school elite 'reinforces and perpetuates a class

system whose divisions run through all British institutions, separating

language, attitudes and motivations'.

Those who attend these schools continue to dominate the institutions

at the heart of the British state, and seem likely to do so for some time

to come. At the beginning of the 1990s public schools accounted for 22 out

of 24 of the army's top generals, two-thirds of the Bank of England's

external directors, 33 out of 39 top English judges, and ambassadors in the

15 most important diplomatic missions abroad. Of the 200 richest people in

Britain no fewer than 35 had attended Eton. Eton and Winchester continue to

dominate the public school scene, and the wider world beyond. As Sampson

asks, 'Can the products of two schools (Winchester and Eton), it might be

asked, really effectively represent the other 99.5 per cent of the people

in this diverse country who went to neither mediaeval foundation?' The

concept of service was once at the heart of the public school ethos, but it

is questionable whether it still is. A senior Anglican bishop noted in

1997, 'A headmaster told me recently that the whole concept of service had

gone. Now they all want to become merchant bankers and lawyers.'

There are two arguments that qualify the merit of the public schools,

apart from the criticism that they are socially divisive. It is

inconceivable that the very best intellectual material of the country

resides solely among those able to attend such schools. If one accepts that

the brightest and best pupils are in fact spread across the social

spectrum, one must conclude that an elitist system of education based

primarily upon wealth rather than ability must involve enormous wastage.

The other serious qualification regards the public school ethos which is so

rooted in tradition, authority and a narrow idea of 'gentlemanly'

professions. Even a century after it tried to turn its pupils into

gentlemen, the public school culture still discourages, possibly

unconsciously, its pupils from entering industry. 'It is no accident,'

Sampson comments, 'that most formidable industrialists in Britain come from

right outside the public school system, and many from right outside


Britain will be unable to harness its real intellectual potential

until it can break loose from a divisive culture that should belong in the

past, and can create its future elite from the nation's schoolchildren as a

whole. In 1996 a radical Conservative politician argued for turning public

schools into centres of excellence which would admit children solely on

ability, regardless of wealth or social background, with the help of

government funding. It would be a way of using the best of the private

sector for the nation as a whole. It is just such an idea that Labour might

find attractive, if it is able to tackle the more widespread and

fundamental shortcomings of the state education system.

Further and higher education


reparation for adult life» includes training in the skills required for a

job. These skills can be pitched at different levels - highly job-specific

and not requiring much thought in their application, or «generalisable» and

applicable to different kinds of employment.

Vocational courses are concerned with the teaching of job-related

skills, whether specific or generalisable. They can be based in industry,

and «open learning» techniques make this increasingly likely, although in

the past, they have normally been taught in colleges of further education,

with students given day release from work. Vocational training has not been

an activity for schools. But some critics think that schools should provide

it for non-academic pupils. One major initiative back in 1982, was the

Technical and Vocational Education Initiative (TVEI) in which schools

received money if they were able to build into the curriculum vocationally-

related content ant activities - more technology, business studies,

industry related work and visits, etc. But all this got lost in 1988 with

the imposition of a National Curriculum was reformed, providing

opportunities for vocational studies to be introduced at 14.

But the real changes in vocational training were to be seen outside

the schools. The curriculum in colleges of further education has been

closely determined by vocational examination bodies which decide what the

student should be able to do in order to receive a qualification as, for

example, a plumber or a hairdresser. These qualifications were pitched at

different levels - from relatively low-skilled operative to higher-skilled

craft and technician. Obtaining these qualifications often required an

apprenticeship, with day release in a college of further education for more

theoretical study.

Vocational training always has had a relatively low status in

Britain. The «practical» and the «vocational» have seldom given access to

university or to the prestigious and professional jobs.

Further education has traditionally been characterised by part-time

vocational courses for those who leave school at the age of 16 but need to

acquire a skill, be that in the manual, technical or clerical field. In

all, about three million students enrol each year in part-time courses at

further education (FE) colleges, some released by their employers and a

greater number unemployed. In addition there have always been a much

smaller proportion in full-time training. In 1985 this figure was a meagre

400,000, but by 1995 this had doubled. Given Labour's emphasis on improving

the skills level of all school-leavers, this expansion will continue.

Vocational training, most of which is conducted at the country's 550

further education colleges is bound to be an important component.

Higher education has also undergone a massive expansion. In 1985 only

573,000, 16 per cent of young people, were enrolled in full-time higher

education. Ten years later the number was 1,150,000, no less than 30 per

cent of their age group.

This massive expansion was achieved by greatly enlarging access to

undergraduate courses, but also by authorising the old polytechnics to

grant their own degree awards, and also to rename themselves as

universities. Thus there are today 90 universities, compared with 47 in

1990, and only seventeen in 1945. They fall into five broad categories: the

medieval English foundations, the medieval Scottish ones, the nineteenth-

century 'redbrick' ones, the twentieth-century 'plate-glass' ones, and

finally the previous polytechnics. They are all private institutions,

receiving direct grants from central government.

Oxford and Cambridge, founded in the thirteenth and fourteenth

centuries respectively, are easily the most famous of Britain's

universities. Today 'Oxbridge', as the two together are known, educate less

than one-twentieth of Britain's total university student population. But

they continue to attract many of the best brains and to mesmerise an even

greater number, partly on account of their prestige, but also on account of

the seductive beauty of many of their buildings and surroundings.

Both universities grew gradually, as federations of independent

colleges, most of which were founded in the fourteenth, fifteenth and

sixteenth centuries. In both universities, however, new colleges are

periodically established, for example Green College, Oxford (1979) and

Robinson College, Cambridge (1977).

In the nineteenth century more universities were established to

respond to the greatly increased demand for educated people as a result of

the Industrial Revolution and the expansion of Britain's overseas empire.

Many of these were sited in the industrial centres, for example Birmingham,

Manchester, Nottingham, Newcastle, Liverpool and Bristol.

With the expansion of higher education in the 1960s 'plate-glass'

universities were established, some named after counties or regions rather

than old cities, for example Sussex, Kent, East Anglia and Strathclyde.

Over 50 polytechnics and similar higher education institutes acquired

university status in 1992. There is also a highly successful Open

University, which provides every person in Britain with the opportunity to

study for a degree, without leaving their home. It is particularly designed

for adults who missed the opportunity for higher education earlier in life.

It conducts learning through correspondence, radio and television, and also

through local study centres.

University examinations are for Bachelor of Arts, or of Science (BA or

BSc) on completion of the undergraduate course, and Master of Arts or of

Science (MA or MSc) on completion of postgraduate work, usually a one- or

two-year course involving some original research. Some students continue to

complete a three-year perio of original research for the degree of Doctor

of Philosophy (PhD). The bachelor degree is normal classed, with about 5

per cent normally gaining First, about 30 per cent gaining an Upper Seconi

or 2.1, perhaps 40 per cent gaining a Lower Second, or 2.2, and the balance

getting either i Third, a Pass or failing. Approximately 15 per cei fail to

complete their degree course.

In addition there are a large number of specialis higher education

institutions in the realm of the performing and visual arts. For example,

there a four leading conservatories: the Royal Academy Music, the Royal

College of Music, Trinity College of Music and the Royal Northern College

of Music.

There are a large number of art colleges, of whi the most famous is

the Royal College of Art, where both Henry Moore and David Hockney once

studied. Other colleges cater for dance, film-making and other specialist

areas in arts.

In spite of the high fees, Britain's universities, Fl colleges and

English language schools host a number of foreign students, in 1996 there

were fewer than 158,000.

Female undergraduates have greatly increased proportionately in recent

years. In the mid-1960 they were only 28 per cent of the intake, became 41

per cent by the early 1980s, and were 51 per cent by 1996. There is still

an unfortunate separation of the sexes in fields of chosen study, arising

from occupational tradition and social expectations. Caring for others is

still a 'proper' career for women; building bridges, it seems, is not.

Unless one believes women's brains are better geared to nursing and other

forms of caring and men's to bridge-building, one must conclude that social

expectations still hinder women and men from realising their potential.

Students from poorer backgrounds are seriously underrepresented in higher

education. Although more in social categories C, D and E are now enrolled,

it is the more prosperous social categories A and B which have benefited

most from university expansion. For Labour there are two issues here:

equality of opportunity, and maximising all of society's intellectual


Ethnic minorities' representation is growing: 1 3 per cent in 1996

compared with only 10.7 per cent in 1990. It is noteworthy that their

university representation exceeds their proportion within the whole

population, a measure of their commitment to higher education.

In 1988 a new funding body, the University Funding Council, was

established, with power to require universities to produce a certain number

of qualified people in specific fields. It is under the UFC's watchful eye

that the universities have been forced to double their student intake, and

each university department is assessed on its performance and quality. The

fear, of course, is that the greatly increased quantity of students that

universities must now take might lead to a loss of academic quality.

Expansion has led to a growing funding gap. Universities have been

forced to seek sponsorship from the commercial world, wealthy patrons and

also from their alumni. The Conservative Party also decided to reduce

maintenance grants but to offer students loans in order to finance their

studies. However, the funding gap has continued to grow and Labour shocked

many who had voted for it by introducing tuition fees at 1,000 pounds per

annum in 1998. Although poorer students were to be exempted it was feared

that, even with student loans, up to 10 per cent of those planning to go to

university would abandon the idea. One effect of the financial burden is

that more students are living at home while continuing their studies: about

50 per cent at the ex-polytechnics, but only 15 per cent at the older


Today many university science and technology departments, for example

at Oxford, Cambridge, Manchester, Imperial College London, and Strathclyde,

are among the best in Europe. The concern is whether they will continue to

be so in the future. Academics' pay has fallen so far behinc other

professions and behind academic salaries elsewhere, that many of the best

brains have gon< abroad. Adequate pay and sufficient research funding to

keep the best in Britain remains a majo challenge.

As with the schools system, so also with higher education: there is a

real problem about the exclusivity of Britain's two oldest universities.

While Oxbridge is no longer the preserve of a social elite it retains its

exclusive, narrow and spell-binding culture. Together with the public

school system, it creates a narrow social and intellectual channel from

which the nation's leaders are almost exclusively drawn. In 1996 few people

were in top jobs in the Civil Service, the armed forces, the law or

finance, who had not been either to a public school or Oxbridge, or to


The problem is not the quality of education offered either in the

independent schools or Oxbridge. The problem is cultural. Can the products

of such exclusive establishments remain closely in touch with the remaining

95 per cent of the population? If the expectation is that Oxbridge,

particularly, will continue to dominate the controlling positions in the

state and economy, is the country ignoring equal talent which does not have

the Oxbridge label? As with the specialisation at the age of 16 for A

levels, the danger is that Britain's governing elite is too narrow, both in

the kind of education and where it was acquired. It is just possible that

the new Labour government, which itself reflects a much wider field of life

experience in Britain, will mark the beginning of significantly fuller

popular participation in the controlling institutions of state.

Present situation

The educational system - its organization, its control, its content -

is changing rapidly to meet the perceived needs of the country - the need

to improve standards and to respond to a rapidly changing and competitive

economy. Those changes might be summarized in the following way.

First, there is much greater central control over what is taught.

Second, what is taught is seen in rather traditional terms - organized in

terms of subjects rather than in response to the learning needs of the

pupils. Third, however, there is an attempt to be responsive to the

economic needs of the country, with an emphasis upon vocational studies and

training. Fourth, there is a rapid expansion of those who stay in education

beyond the compulsory age, making use of the «three-track system» of «A»

Level, GNVQ (General National Vocational Qualifications) and NVQ (National

Vocational Qualifications). Fifth, although the content of education is

centrally controlled, its «delivery» pays homage to the «market» by

encouraging choice between different institutions so that funding follows

popular choice (i.e. the more popular the school with parents, the more

money it gets, thereby providing an incentive to schools and colleges to

improve their performance.

Education under Labour


ducation was the central theme of the new Labour government. It promised a

huge range of improvements: high-quality education for all four-year-olds

whose parents wanted it and lower pupil-teacher ratios, in particular that

children up to the age of eight children would never be in classes of over

30 pupils. It also declared that all children at primary school would spend

one hour each day on reading and writing, and another hour each day on

numeracy, the basic skills for all employment. When Labour took office only

57 per cent of children reached national literacy targets by the time they

left primary school, and only 55 per cent reached similar targets in maths.

The government pledged to raise these proportions to 80 per cent and 75 per

cent respectively. It also established a new central authority responsible

for both qualifications and the curriculum, to ensure that these were, in

the government's own words, 'high quality, coherent and flexible'. It

warned that it intended to evolve a single certificate to replace A levels

and vocational qualifications, and possibly to reflect a broad range of

study rather than the narrow specialism of the A-level system. Because 30

per cent of students who started A-level courses failed to acquire one, it

also wanted to create a more flexible system that would allow students

still to attain recognised standards of education and training on the road

to A levels. However, unlike France or Germany, an increasing proportion of

those taking exams at this standard were actually passing.

The government also promised to improve the quality of the teaching staff,

with a mandatory qualification for all newly appointed heads of schools, to

improve teacher training, to establish a General Teaching Council, which

would restore teacher morale and raise standards, and to introduce more

effective means of removing inefficient teachers. It also promised to look

at the growing problem of boys underachieving at school compared with

girls. Finally, Labour asked for its record to be judged at the end of its

first term in office, in 2002.


1. When do the british start their education?

2. Do you agree that the british education has problems?

3. What were the lacks of British education?

4. Who can study in public schools?

5. Does the word «public» reflect the real principle of that schools?

6. What political acts became a turning point in British education?

7. What is the most well-spread opinion about the vocational courses?

8. What do you think about the quality of higher education in Britain?

9. What are the main principles of the Labour Patry (concerning education)

10. How had the role of parents in the children’s education changed?

11. How did the changing economic and social situation influence the system

of education?

12. What are the most prestigeous schools in Britain?

13. Are there students from other countries in British schools and


14. Is the nursary school compulsory?

15. How do you think: do the Concervative principles of education differ

from that of Labour?

16. What are the aims of education in Britain today?

17. Did the level of education become higher after the reforms?

18. What is the GCSE?

19. What types of schools does the british system of education includes?

20. Would you like to study in Britain? (Give your argument for or against


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