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Historical and strategic context of educational policy and elearning

Mini Project 1 of Assignment 1 (MMEL)

The further education sector faces considerable challenges in meeting the Coalition Government’s targets of raising skills within the UK workforce whilst coping with reforms and spending cuts across the public sector.  This project will consider three key themes in current educational policies which affect the sector: raising skills, public sector reforms, and elearning, which is defined here as the use of technology in education.

The Leitch Review (HM Treasury, 2006) suggested that in order to be competitive in the global economy, the UK’s adult skills base would need to “double the current level of attainment at most qualification levels by 2020” (ibid:p4). The Review also recommended a shift to a ‘demand-led’ approach with a focus on skills which meet the needs of individuals and employers, as well as offering transferable skills which enable a more mobile, adaptable workforce, thus maximising “economic growth, productivity and social justice” (ibid: p6).  However, in 2004 when the Leitch Review was conducted, the UK was in a strong economic position. By 2010 the economic climate had worsened dramatically.   The challenge for the UK now is to increase skills to enable it to remain competitive, whilst dealing with severe austerity measures.

In 2010, the Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition government set out policy reforms in the Skills for Sustainable Growth strategy document (BIS, 2010) which recognises that the improvement of skills is crucial to returning the economy to sustainable growth. The strategy is founded on the three principles of fairness, responsibility and freedom which correlate with the Leitch Review recommendations. Therefore, the government will continue to support people who need to improve basic skills levels. However, more responsibility has been handed to employers and individuals to provide their own funding for higher levels of training, for example, a new FE loans system is to be introduced in 2013/14. Training providers will be encouraged to offer a greater diversity of provision to serve the needs of the community: employers and individuals.  The government suggests that devolvement of control from central government will empower learners to demand high quality provision, and thus drive up standards.

It could be suggested that the use of elearning in the further education sector could support the Government’s strategy in three ways. Firstly, by improving the ICT skills of learners; secondly, by offering a wider and more flexible provision; and thirdly by improving the quality of provision. Indeed, the Labour Government’s strategy Harnessing Technology (DfES, 2005) set out objectives for the use of technology in education which included: improving teaching and learning; widening participation; and offering personalised learning. Although with a change in Government, Becta  who developed the Harnessing Technology strategy has since closed,  it could be argued that the effective use of technology in education would help to achieve the reforms set out in the  Skills for Sustainable Growth strategy document (BIS, 2010)

The challenge to the further education sector therefore is to offer increased quality provision which is flexible, and to do so in a difficult economic climate.  It could be argued that effective elearning strategies may be beneficial in helping the sector to achieve these objectives.  Nevertheless, as Weller (2002) states, it is important that the effect of the use of technology in education is considered carefully in relation to pedagogy and the curriculum.

REFERENCES

BECTA (2008), Analysis of emerging trends affecting the use of technology in education  Research to support the delivery and development of Harnessing Technology: Next Generation Learning 2008–14, Becta [online] Available at: http://www.e-learningcentre.co.uk/Resource/CMS/Assets/5c10130e-6a9f-102c-a0be-003005bbceb4/form_uploads/Analysis_of_emerging_trends_affecting_the_use_of_technology_in_education___BECTA.pdf [Accessed 16th October 2011]

BIS, Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (2010), Skills for Sustainable Growth, London, TSO [online], Available at: http://www.bis.gov.uk/policies/further-education-skills/skills-for-sustainable-growth [accessed 16th October 2011]

DfES (2005). Harnessing Technology Transforming Learning and Children’s Services, DfES

HM Treasury (2006), Prosperity for all in the Global Economy – World Class Skills, London: TSO  [online], Available at http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/leitch  [accessed 16th October 2010]

Weller, M. (2002), Delivering Learning on the Net, London: Kogan Page

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