Four subjects that should have greater importance in the education system
Maths, science and literacy have been considered the core subjects of the British education system for many years. These subjects have been deemed to have greater prevalence in the competitive global economy. In a rapidly transforming world, it has been argued that the national curriculum has failed to adapt to the 21st century.
An explosion of digital technology and cultural integration has changed the way we work and communicate with each other. Focus has continued to be placed on the three traditional core subjects leaving the UK with a potentially damaging skills crisis. Language skills, cultural awareness and technological understanding have become more important than ever before.
Digital literacy can help to close the skills gap
UK businesses have feared a skills crisis for some time now, particularly in the construction industry. But it may come as a surprise that in this digital age, over 12 million UK citizens do not have the necessary digital skills to prosper. More than one quarter of females and a fifth of males do not have digital skills which puts the UK behind other OECD countries on average.
As demand for digital skills continues to soar, the UK is running the risk of losing its status as an economic powerhouse. International firms are increasingly seeking skills in cloud development, big data and SAP. Eursap, the London-based suppliers of SAP talent across Europe has highlighted that SAP configuration and implementation are two of the most sought-after skills.
The solution lies in teaching children digital skills from a young age. The House of Lords digital skills committee has suggested classifying digital literacy as a core subject in a radical rethink of the curriculum. The shakeup would see pupils learning the basics of coding from the age of five, with £3.6m budgeted for teacher training in the subject.
Art can encourage cultural tolerance in the global society
The UK has become a multicultural nation with various ethnicities, religions and nationalities living side by side. However studies have shown that racial segregation is increasing in Britain despite it being more diverse than ever before.
In an interview with video production company TellyJuice, influential war artist Peter Kennard described art in schools as an incredible opening up of experiences and an important platform for integration and freedom of speech. His argument is supported by a 2005 report which found art education can help pupils to connect to the larger world, ultimately improving community cohesion.
Studying art and design is also believed to help children learn academically. The House of Lords have argued that art should become a curriculum core subject as it encourages the development of creativity, critical thinking and self-confidence – skills necessary for innovation.
Sport can help tackle gender inequality
Gender inequality in the UK remains a serious issue. A recent report showed that the gender pay gap in the UK remains at 19% with nearly a third of women earning less than the living wage. The report claimed that while the UK’s “systemic” gender issues are on the agenda, businesses and government are not putting enough funds into tackling the problem. By tackling the issue from a young age and educating pupils about inequality in schools, stigmas regarding gender will be considered redundant by future generations.
Further education experts AoC Jobs have highlighted sport in schools as an important way of reducing gender inequality. Nationally, 30.3% of the female population aged 14+ play sport once a week compared to 40.9% of men. The picture is no different in colleges where only 30% of students participating in sports activities in colleges are female.
Many institutions are now addressing the issue by creating programmes that meet the needs of females in colleges. Physical education should also be encouraged at primary and secondary schools. Opportunities should be provided so that females can develop sporting passions and ability in an environment free of inequality and stereotyping.
Foreign languages can ensure the UK stays globally competitive
The UK has a reputation for being poor at foreign languages but never before has this presented a problem as it does now. In the increasingly globalised business world, languages are crucial to the UK’s future prosperity. The current shortage of language skills is said to be holding back the UK’s international trade performance at a cost of almost £50 billion a year.
David Cameron has suggested schools should replace European languages with languages that will “seal tomorrow’s business deals” such as Mandarin and Arabic. However the popularity of one language should not negate the need for others.
Business translation company London Translations note that French translation remains their most requested translation language, while many of the fastest growing economies are Spanish speaking countries.
Since 2014, students aged seven to 11 have been required to reach a high standard of written and spoken communication in one of seven designated languages. It has been argued that children should be introduced to foreign languages at even younger age. Studies have found that the younger the learner, the better they are at mimicking new sounds and adopting pronunciation.
The editorial unit
Photo: Dominic Chavez / World Bank