Education Q & A: Toby Young

Ahead of our next Disruptors debate on the future of education, we sit down with panellist Toby Young to gauge his views on the state of the global education system...

Toby Young is one of Britain’s most controversial broadcasters and journalists. He is an associate editor of the Spectator, where he has written a weekly column since 1998, and a blogger for the Telegraph. Until 2012 he was political columnist for The Sun. He founded the West London Free School, the first free school in England to sign a Funding Agreement with Michael Gove.

Image credit: Toby Young

What are the biggest problems in the education system today?

In England, the biggest problem is too few teachers, particularly headteachers. This is largely a consequence of higher-than-anticipated levels of immigration over the past 25 years or so. Given the refugee crisis engulfing Europe, this will soon be a Europe-wide problem. 

How would you like to see these problems addressed?

The obvious solution is to reduce barriers to entry into the teaching profession. Make it easier for graduates to start training as teachers and easier for people to switch to retrain as teachers mid-career. To solve the headteacher shortage, I think schools will have to start employing senior managers from outside the teaching profession.

What do you think education will look like in 2050?

I think the state will play a smaller part in overall provision in the developed world, with a mixture of commercial and not-for-profit education management organisations playing a bigger role. That will partly be because state's can't afford to spend so much money on education, and partly because it will be the only way to meet the increasing demand for different types of education. 

How do you think technology will change the way that children learn?

That's impossible to predict because of the pace of technological change. I think it's likely that many of the tasks currently done by human beings in schools will be done by intelligent machines, particularly back office roles, but some teaching roles too.

What is the ultimate goal you hope to achieve in education for the next generation?

I would like to see a return to a focus on the transmission of essential knowledge, rather than trying to provide children with skills. The world of work is changing so fast, schools cannot anticipate what specialised skills their pupils will need on graduation and shouldn't try.

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details.

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