Venki Ramakrishnan is the President of the Royal Society and a Nobel Prize winning scientist. At our Annual Conference in 2019 he reflected on why the Society believes a fully rounded education is crucial to prepare young people to thrive in life, learning and work.
Some of Venki’s key messages were:
- “Pockets of success for the wealthy elite are not good enough for a country to prosper – especially in a world which is increasingly globally competitive”
Venki referred to research showing students in the South East are twice as likely to have a broad education as those in the North East, and private schools students are 3x as likely to as their peers in state schools.
- England has one of the narrowest post 16 education systems in the world
This is based around a mistaken belief that there is a tension between depth and breadth.
- It’s not just about science and maths – English, history, maths and vocational are all key to give the mixture of skills and knowledge young people need to thrive
As a Nobel Prize winning scientist, you might expect Venki to argue for everyone to study those subjects for longer – but he sees them as only one element of a broader education for all. As he said – if you read peer reviewed science journals, you will see many scientists would benefit from studying English for longer!
- “Momentum is building” around the need for change
3/4rd of businesses would prefer a mixture of academic and technical qualifications. Parents are in the mood for change too – 1/2 of parents believe children should be encouraged to study a broader range of subjects.
- …and there’s an emerging consensus around the need for a fully rounded curriculum
As well as the Royal Society, teaching unions, the CBI, businesses and parents have highlighted curriculum narrowing, and called for a whole education approach.
- But top down implementation will not work
Consensus for change needs to be built from the grassroots. This should be done in an evidence-led, non partisan way. Easier said than done!
Thank you Venki and the Society for your contribution to our conference! You can read more about the Society’s work in this area on their website.