Training and Employability

Controlling Education, Controlling Futures: Whose Voices Should Be Heard?

What if students could have more of a say in their GCSE choices? What if they could influence syllabus content and how they are assessed?

This might sound like a radical idea, but why should our current education systems not be shaped by those inside them? Why not let young people choose how their futures are formed? After all, education does just that: it creates and shapes the futures of those within it.

The prevailing suspicion remains that given the choice, young people will opt for the easy option, or at least not act within their own interests. However, a recent, in-depth study by Queen’s University Belfast has been able to categorically denounce these long-held beliefs, finding instead that ‘students have the capacity to make considered judgements and do not automatically opt for what they perceive as the easiest option.’1 Moreover, the study was able to recommend that young people should be given a consulting voice in decisions about their education at a national, school and individual level.

If we accept these findings, we are presented with a new set of intriguing possibilities around the management of both curriculum inequality and subject choice. Reimagining choice in education as a dialogue between pupil and teacher is one avenue to explore, as is the behaviour and decision-making of pupils in an environment of opportunities. Key to all of this is that young people feel that they are heard through their education and that decisions and policies are made in their interest and not that of more powerful stakeholders.


Inequalities and the curriculum: young people’s views on choice and fairness through their experiences of curriculum as examination specifications at GCSE (accessed 25/07/17)1


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