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Study for an NVQ in Teaching

The past decade has seen a major effort to enhance and extend vocational preparation in the United Kingdom to meet the challenges faced in a changing world of employment.

Study for an NVQ in Teaching

Traditionally professional bodies have played a major part in determining the education and training required for membership of their various fields of work. This is especially true of the more senior roles in the professions of most relevance to business. As the range of specialists has widened so the number of professional bodies has multiplied.

At the same time there has been a major movement to improve basic preparation from the bottom up, starting with programmes for the unskilled and the unemployed. Through this has emerged a national policy for the development of vocational standards where the main determinant of what was to be sought reflected the perceived requirements of employers in the occupations concerned.

These National Vocational Qualifications (NVQ’s) have been promoted over a wide range of occupations and industries. To reinforce this approach General Vocational Qualifications (GNVQ’s) have been developed to enable young people to demonstrate their knowledge and awareness of what is required even when in their final years at school and the biggest sector for which they have been developed is business and its related services.

The enthusiasm for such an approach has however, met with serious reservations both among those in higher education and within the professional bodies primarily concerned with more senior roles in the various professions. Even though this approach has been taken to higher levels in respect of management than any where else the limitations of the underlying functional approach to specifying what is needed have remained a major constraint on further movement on these lines.

The whole approach is reflected at government level in the merger of the Department of Employment, where the approach had been fostered, with the previously known as Education and Science. Now the whole question of further development on these lines has been the subject of a major consultation with the parties most concerned and the outcome is best described as a pause for reflection.

The professions, like the higher education institutions, argue that it is just not feasible to confine preparation to the assessment of performance at even an extended range of tasks. The role of the professional demands a wide range of knowledge and an understanding that just cannot be tested by specific task performance.

A halt has therefore been called to any movement towards higher levels of GNVQ’s than has already been achieved and the emphasis switched to achieving a wider acceptance of the standards so far developed, possibly with some modification of their prescription as has already happened to those for managers.

The professional bodies while accepting many aspects of the approach have their reservations as to the feasibility of extending the work place assessment of performance as a sole basis for the award of qualifications. This is very important for the many bodies so much of whose work is outside the United Kingdom.

At the same time there is a widespread acceptance of the need for greater flexibility as between the various awarding bodies such as credit transfer arrangements and this applies to academic institutions as well. Now there is a new element to be considered.

A Qualifications and Curriculum Agency has been set up by the U.K. Government. While its original target was qualifications for those still at school the intention is to widen its remit to all stages in "lifelong learning". Its task is to sustain quality assurance not only within operations in the United Kingdom but wherever U.K. institutions franchise their programmes abroad.

The widened range of professional bodies remains a major force in determining and sustaining British qualifications world wide but these bodies do so against the background of a strong vocational emphasis on what they seek to develop among those who seek their qualifications.

Equally the whole basis of the UK approach to "competency" continues to be a matter of debate. David McClelland, whom many regard as the founding father of this approach, has expressed his reservations about its degree of reliance on what employers deem appropriate as opposed to the job-holders themselves! Clearly we are a long way from resolving such concerns but the professional bodies, whose membership is largely made up of job-holders, are clearly an important voice in the debate.

British Higher Education Reviewed

Two years ago we were confronted by the issues to be faced by the Committee on Higher Education in the United Kingdom chaired by Sir Ronald Dearing. Fresh from his review of school leaver qualifications he was invited to tackle the politically sensitive questions concerning the future of British Higher Education and its funding. The timing of the study was such that its report would be available to whichever party won the General Election due not later than May 1997.

Now we have the very far reaching recommendations of the Committee and a new government which campaigned with the slogan "Education, education, education"! Above all Dearing acknowledges increasing demand for higher education at degree and even more at sub-degree level both at home and abroad. Yet the most immediate change is the abandonment of free higher education, already accepted by the new government.

For over two decades overseas students have been called upon to meet the tuition fees at British Universities. UK students have had to meet the fees for post graduate programmes such as the MBA. From 1998 they must pay at least £1,000 per annum in tuition fees for all first degrees they may have to pay even more at those universities that, faced with strong demand for their programmes, now add on "top up fees" to offset reduced government funding. The plan is that there should be loan facilities repayable once the graduates enter employment.

While this is the change that has caught the headlines it is but one of many important innovations proposed. Already the previous government had set up a Qualifications and Curriculum Agency to oversee awarding bodies for those up to 19 years of age. Its remit is now extended to "life-long learning". The curriculum changes in schools emphasising skills in communication, numeracy across higher and further education.

There is a new emphasis on the professional training of those who teach in higher education linked to a renewed stress on quality assurance. One noteworthy aspect of the latter is the proposed restriction from 2001 onwards on the franchising of centres abroad as well as in the UK to those arrangements that meet the Quality Assurance Agency’s specifications. This is an important assurance to students world wide when faced with the plethora of offerings through competing institutions.

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