Charles attacks 'utilitarian' school system

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The Independent Online

Prince Charles has accused politicians of destroying a love of learning by insisting all youngsters must be prepared for the world of work.

Prince Charles has accused politicians of destroying a love of learning by insisting all youngsters must be prepared for the world of work.

The Prince of Wales yesterday also questioned the value of increasing university participation at a time when the Prime Minister has made one of his key targets getting 50 per cent of youngsters into higher education by the end of the decade.

The Prince told teachers that politicians often went out of their way to stress schools and universities must "deliver the skilled workforce the UK needs if it is to remain competitive in the knowledge economy". The Prince said: "If we have reached the point where we justify education on utilitarian grounds alone, we might as well give up. "Education matters because it is through education that children discover their common humanity. The sooner we rediscover this essential the better, the better for our children and for you, their teachers.''

On expanding higher education, the Prince said: "There is a belief that, according to some schools of thought, obtaining a degree is the only way to succeed in the world, whereas we would probably all benefit from a greater emphasis on practical, vocational skills provision.''

He went on to accuse the government of sapping teachers' enthusiasm through constant reforms. "It must be hard to teach with energy and commitment when the curriculum is in a state of constant flux, [and] public examinations are forever being restructured.''

He then widened his attack, saying that since the Second World War Britain had witnessed the "destruction of our cultural, linguistic and historical habitat'' through changes to the education system. This had been encouraged, he said, by "the fashionable ideas of experts and educationalists".

He also accused parents of undermining teachers' authority. "It must be hard to keep order when your pupils apparently have little fear of the sanctions you can impose, when some of their parents collude to undermine your authority, when we live in a society where the very notion of 'authority' is routinely criticised,'' he said.

The Prince called for the recovery of a "proper balance'' in schools and more emphasis on the study of the UK's historical and literary past. "In terms of teaching history, how can anyone properly understand the present if they have not been taught about the past? How can anything worthwhile grow in this world we inherit if it has no proper roots?

"The same kind of universal truth applies also to the teaching of English. If children are to contribute as adults to the knowledge economy, they must be taught to spell and punctuate.''

The Prince was talking at a weekend school for teachers that he had organised to give them the chance to discuss their work. Guest speakers at Buxton, Derbyshire, include the historians Niall Ferguson and Simon Schama and the novelist P D James.