UK businesses demand further education reform


Britain's businesses are dissatisfied with the nation's further education system and want the government to introduce reforms immediately, according to the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC).

On the day that sixth-formers up and down the country will be waking up in trepidation to receive their A-level results, the BCC has attacked the government as "sitting on a skills time bomb".

Whether students' small white envelopes contain elation or disappointment, the latest batch of A-level results has reignited the ongoing debate about the worth of A-levels as an educational qualification.

While some attribute continually rising 'grade inflation' to improvements in educational provision, others argue that the change is undermining the reliability of A-levels.

Among the foremost critics of the existing system is the BCC, which has voiced its concern today about the growing frustration employees' feel about poor educational levels among new recruits.

David Frost, the BCC's director general, argues that UK businesses are worried that "the current system is too narrow and restrictive and is not providing our young people with the skills they will need in an increasingly globalised economy".

He argues that a "decline" in the "supply of young people who are qualified in maths, the sciences and who also have language skills" means that "the UK is sitting on a skills time bomb".

His solution, that Britain adopts the international baccalaureate system, is not the only proposed means of improving the skills of those entering the labour market in Britain.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) published a report in June arguing that greater competition was needed in the further education sector to improve the standard of courses which many colleges offered their students.

The government is currently considering proposals contained in a white paper published by the Department for Education and Skills on March 27th this year, which will seek to invest more money into sixth form colleges throughout the UK.

While 12 per cent of students in 1991's batch of results achieved the 'A' grade, that proportion had increased to 23 per cent last year.

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