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Fast food qualifications – the future of education in the UK?

January 28th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

Agggh – this is just what I feared. For some time I have been convinced we are at a turning point in our development of education and training systems and provision. I won’t go into all the reasons here – suffice to say that I believe education is intrinsically toed up in societal development – including economic development – and that our present education systems are based on the needs and forms of the first industrial revolutions and have failed to change to reflect the profound changes in society resulting from the digital revolution.

That systems will change and change dramatically is without doubt in my opinion. The direction of such change is less clear. I believe there is a big danger that systems will become privatized with state provision becoming a second class option. Furthermore, education is deeply tied up with societal values. Companies will not usually reflect those values in their totality.

I have no problem with MacDonald’s offering training programmes. Far from it. I do have two issues. One – why the hype? Why is the Prime Minister announcing new apprenticeship programmes by a few major companies. The rub is in the detail. MacDonald’s and other organisations will now be able to accredit their own programmes. They will become private examination boards. It could be argued that a number of the examination boards in the UK are effectively private organisations. But their purpose is to accredit learning. MacDonald’s primary purpose is to make p-rofit for shareholders by selling hamburgers.

Perhaps I am being paranoid, but I fear the reason that prime minister brown has announced these new programme sis that this represent another large shift towards privatising education and training in the UK.

From the Guardian: “The prime minister has defended the accreditation of in-company qualifications after it was announced that staff at McDonald’s could gain the equivalent of an A-level in burger bar management.

The fast food giant, Network Rail and the airline Flybe are the first three companies to win government approval to become an exam board.

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority has approved a pilot “basic shift manager” course, which will train staff in everything they need to run a McDonald’s outlet, from marketing to human resources and customer service skills.

The budget airline Flybe will start piloting their “airline trainer programme” in the summer, which will cover everything from engineering to cabin crew training.

Much of the course will fit with the QCA’s Qualifications and Credit Framework, which allows credits for units of work to build up to full qualifications over time.

The company hopes to award qualifications equal to good GCSEs and up to university degrees.

Network Rail is piloting an initial qualification in track engineering and hopes to issue qualifications equivalent to GCSEs, but with some units at postgraduate level that could contribute to a master’s qualification.

Speaking on GMTV, Brown said: “You have got to do a pretty intensive course to get that qualification. It’s not that standards are going to fall. It’s going to be a tough course. Once you’ve got that qualification you can go anywhere.”

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