Journal of the ...Volume 12 Issue 1 & 2 The English edu...
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Personal Reflection

The English education system: undervalued and over-measured

Anna Vignoles*email-imageAnna Vignoles*

Anna Vignoles is Director of the Leverhulme Trust. She was previously a Professor of Education at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge. Professor Vignoles’ research has focused on issues of equity and value in education—in particular the relationship between educational achievement and social mobility and the role played by education and skills attainment in the economy and society. She was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 2017.

email-image avignoles@leverhulme.ac.uk

Abstract

The economic value of education is widely known. However, policymakers, despite recognising its economic benefits in theory, in practice treat education spending and school funding as a cost. In the English context, this has led to a shortfall in investment in education, training and skills. The prevailing characterisation of education as a cost obscures its genuine societal and economic value, and there is a particular need for better measurement of its social benefits, including human capital, in terms of health, civic participation, and well-being. This article explores the consequences of downplaying the investment role of education, which include cuts in real-terms education spending despite trying to pursue an economic growth agenda, and increases in educational and income inequality. The current (burdensome) accountability system then adds to the problem of underinvestment, measuring as it does only a narrow range of academic outcomes. Its high-stakes approach also appears to be undermining the desirability of teaching as a profession, which will be detrimental to education quality. This article discusses potential solutions, advocating for a comprehensive and long-term approach to education planning and measuring outcomes beyond traditional academic metrics. It urges a paradigm shift in perceiving education as a sustained, lifelong investment, necessitating strategic systemwide planning, cross-party consensus and, above all, a commitment to valuing the education system and its workforce. The article arises from a British Academy Lecture delivered in November 2022.

Keywords

educationinequalityschool fundinginvestmenthuman capital
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Published on: 22 May 2024
Volume: 12
Issue: Issue 1 & 2
Article ID: a21
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© The author(s) 2024.
Cite this article
Vignoles (2024), ' The English education system: undervalued and over-measured ', Journal of the British Academy, 12(Issue 1 & 2): a21 https://doi.org/10.5871/jba/012.a21

Personal reflection

Normal View Dyslexic View

The English education system: undervalued and over-measured

Anna Vignoles*email-imageAnna Vignoles*

Anna Vignoles is Director of the Leverhulme Trust. She was previously a Professor of Education at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge. Professor Vignoles’ research has focused on issues of equity and value in education—in particular the relationship between educational achievement and social mobility and the role played by education and skills attainment in the economy and society. She was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 2017.

email-image avignoles@leverhulme.ac.uk