Education has changed since I was last on the receiving end of its formal incarnation. It’s even longer since I thought of doing something that might lead to a qualification at the ‘introductory’ end of the spectrum.

I have a GCE ‘O’ level in maths. Yes, I know – what’s a GCE? It’s an examination system still operating in some countries – usually countries with a former colonial relationship with the UK – which was used in the UK a very long time ago.

I am aware from my children’s education that times have changed. The basic ideas of maths remain the same of course but the teaching methods and some of the emphasis and ways of approaching systems are different than when I did it. We barely touched what was called ‘New Maths’. That was something being piloted and trialled as I was finishing my formal maths learning in school. Stuff like Sets and Venn diagrams were whizzed through in a half hour to give us a glimpse of what we were missing, before we returned to quadratic equations and differentiation.

Now I’ve bimbled along through life, being okay with the maths I have, but I wondered on encountering my son and daughter’s maths whether I might not bring myself up to speed and perhaps at last formalise what I’ve picked up of modern approaches and possibly attempt an A Level to keep the old noggin active. Possibly best to have a trot through a GCSE first I thought.

So where to get some help in this quest? Well I have a revision book – a present from someone who knows I would actually love this as a relaxation. I know it’s weird, let’s move on. However I thought let’s get some perspective not in the revision notes.

The biggest change in education since I did ‘O’ levels has it appears not been in the syllabus or content, it is in ‘delivery’. People who wanted to catch up with subjects and/or qualifications after school had easy routes to their options when I was in education. There were FE colleges for young people and night school classes catering for older people in work during the day.

It would be much easier now wouldn’t it? With the internet etc?

No maths course in the area from community learning, no maths course from Workers Educational Association. There is a local-ish college course primarily aimed at kids who haven’t got the required grade to move on to some courses, but they do cater for the odd weird adult keen to help their children or just keen to learn.

Now we come to cash. GCSE maths is c £400 for a part time evening course.

There are also lots of private companies keen to take similar amounts of dosh off anyone wanting to learn.

Education is money. Lots of money.

We talk about wanting to build a better workforce, encourage lifelong learning, recognise the need to raise our ‘skill’ levels and yet we farm out the majority of this type of education to private companies making a profit from the effort.

I had heard that the cuts to Adult Education services had been hard in the fake austerity response to the banking failure of 2008. I hadn’t realised how bad things were until I started looking for courses myself.

I’m not a victim here. I have more qualifications than I need or know what to do with thanks. I don’t need GCSE or A level maths but now I realise how we have monetised the provision of basic educational responsibilities to our nation, I am shocked and deeply upset at how we expect to be competitive in a global marketplace. Unless the plan is to become a low rent service provider using unskilled labour, the lack of provision and foresight is shocking.

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