Au Royaume-Uni, on s'interroge que ce qu'il convient d'apprendre. Ce vieux débat est réactivé sur fond de mondialisation et de compétitivité internationale : "Regardez les Chinois !"

"Education secretary Michael Gove announced a review of the national curriculum last month, arguing for an emphasis on essential knowledge and stressing the value of traditional subjects. Gove has also introduced a new qualification, the English baccalaureate, for good GCSE performance in a range of traditional subjects."

Certaines disciplines comptent moins que d'autres, on le savait déjà mais les coupables ont avoué. "The guide compiled by the Russell Group, a lobbying group for Oxford, Cambridge and 18 other leading universities, confirms rumours that have circulated for years that they favour those subjects [traditional subjects] over newer ones such as business studies or photography. It also reveals an overwhelming preference for science and maths subjects – even for seemingly unrelated degrees. By not studying at least two of the following subjects – maths, English, geography, history, any of the three pure sciences or a classical or modern foreign language – "many degrees at competitive universities will not be open to you," the guide, produced in collaboration with the Institute of Career Guidance, states."

Les élèves qui choisissent ces matières sont suspectés. "It asks students to question why they are not taking traditional subjects: "Are you trying to avoid a challenge?" It states that while there is no "set definition" of a "hard" or "soft" subject, so-called "hard" subjects are like the ones the top universities prefer and are more theoretical. It gives media studies, art and design, photography and business studies as examples of "soft" subjects and states that they are "vocational or have a practical bias"."

Que fait-on des autres élèves ? "Andy Burnham, Labour's shadow education secretary, said that while a clear focus on academic rigour was important, society needed a broad view of success. "We must also focus more on developing routes into work for young people who don't plan to go to university. Michael Gove has very little to say to these young people, and his curriculum and league table reforms are sending a very clear message that vocational learning is second best," Burnham said."

À quel âge s'arrête-t-on de penser ? "The idea that A-level grades achieved at 18 are the last word in intellectual prowess is a myth perpetuated by those who choose to focus on a very narrow range of universities which teach relatively few undergraduate students. The real risk is that well-qualified students from all backgrounds and ages will be denied the chance to study at university because the government fails to fund sufficient places to meet demand, and that some major employers will continue to judge graduates on the basis of pre-entry A-level grades and university attended, rather than on their merits and their achievements at degree level."

Sources : "Gove blames Labour for 'soft' subjects studied", Jessica Shepherd, The Guardian, 04/02/11 ; "Universities admit 'soft' A-levels damage chance of top places", Jessica Shepherd, The Guardian, 04/02/11 ; "Letter", Pam Tatlow, The Guardian, 04/02/11.