19/12/2014

Calls To Reform NI's Education System

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has said improving the education system is crucial to Northern Ireland's future.

In a statement, it has said the region's political leaders need to grasp opportunity of education reform in order to allow for economic growth and enhance the future for young people in Northern Ireland.

However, while the organisation praised that reforms are heading in the right direction, a lack of focus on the final outcomes, such as success in life and work, means that many people are being left behind.

Following the CBI's 'First Steps' report, it outlines the business vision of what is needed to enable NI to compete in the global economy. 'Step Change' claims that raising education standards in the country is "an economic and social imperative", and that the school and college system "must better prepare young people for life outside the school gates".

Included in its business recommendations are:

• The study of maths and English to be made compulsory until 18 for all those remaining in education

• More employer involvement in careers provision

• All schools to offer separate sciences as an option for GCSE, and faster progress on implementing computing as a core subject

• A statutory requirement for all young people at key stage 4 and 5 to undertake work experience

• Computing should be taught as a core subject

• A new statutory duty on regulators across the UK to work more closely together to ensure qualifications in different nations are directly comparable and equally valued by both young people and employers.

Nigel Smyth, CBI Northern Ireland Director, said: "When recruiting young people, firms look above all else for the right attitudes and behaviours – for example, 85% of firms in Northern Ireland rate attitudes to work as the most important factor they consider when recruiting school and college leavers - and this should be a key focus of our schools and colleges.

"Our young people need to learn resilience, enthusiasm, curiosity and creativity. These are the traits that will help them get ahead in work and life, and these should be the outcomes our education system drives towards – alongside academic progress.

"The best education systems globally start with a clear idea of the desired outcomes – we need to do the same in Northern Ireland and then ensure all aspects of the system are aligned to deliver those outcomes."

The report was launched at the Hilton Belfast with Education Minister John O'Dowd MLA and was attended by 100 senior business leaders and educationalists.

(JP/MH)

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