In comparison to other countries in the European Union the United Kingdom lags in literacy and numeracy rates. At age 16 the 'staying on' rate for students transitioning into vocational education is below desired rates with the majority of students not 'staying on' being from poorer or minority families. The United Kingdom's attempt to change the course of decline in educational outcomes has met with limited success.
The United Kingdom has made three major policy changes that should affect literacy rates and staying on rates. The U.K. has chosen to lengthen the compulsory education mandate from 5 to 16 to 5 to 18. The U.K. has also mandated a 'literacy hour' each day where students and teachers focus only on literacy education. The United Kingdom has also mandated that public schools follow the National Curriculum so that all students are educated using the same standards. The desired outcome of these changes are higher literacy rates, increased staying on rates, and standardization of curriculum across the U.K.
The long term outcomes of policy changes would ideally give the United Kingdom a competitive advantage in the E.U. marketplace. If the United Kingdom continues with current trends businesses in the U.K. may look elsewhere in the E.U. for qualified workers thus taking business away from the U.K.
The end of World War Two and the creation of the European Union have brought changes to how children are educated in the European Union. This paper examines those changes and evaluates current policies in place in the United Kingdom. For the purpose of this study three member states and their educational systems have been examined. The United Kingdom is the focus of this paper while data and educational programs in Germany and France have been examined for comparison. All three countries have compulsory education laws that require children attend school during certain years of childhood. All three have tracks that children can follow with some transitioning into vocational education while others transition into higher education (university study for example). And, all three are European Union member states.
How these member states prepare their 'human capital' is important to the European Union as a whole. The move toward open borders, open markets, brings forth the need to have qualified workers in all sectors of the economy. It only makes sense to prepare future workers in the European Union in a similar way with those performing the same jobs having attained the same qualifications. This was not so important pre World War Two when each country had its own isolated economy. The completion of the Chunnel connecting France and England and the completion of the land bridge connecting Sweden and Denmark further opened borders to more commerce. Countries are responsible for preparing their 'human capital' to function (work) in the global market place. As the European Union moves closer to social and economic cohesion it is more important than ever for it is for workers to be trained or educated to function in this new marketplace.
Human capital is best understood as "the physical means of production" (Becker, G 1993). Investing in human capital is much the same as investing in equipment. The equipment desired to