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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 November, 2004, 15:26 GMT
Students not robots, says Charles
Prince Charles
Prince Charles spoke of the beauty of literature, maths and science
Too much of modern education is aimed at turning students into "better robots" rather than inquiring human beings, the Prince of Wales has said.

He criticised the replacement of "teaching and inspiration" by "computer-driven modules" based on serving the needs of the economy.

In a letter to the Association of Colleges, he said the real aims of learning were "joy and self-esteem".

Too much emphasis was placed on costs and economic benefits, he said.

"We hear much discussion these days amongst the ubiquitous 'education experts'," he said.

"Too often, much of that discussion focuses exclusively in terms of costs and benefits to the economy, as if human beings really ought to become better robots."

'Mastering a skill'

The prince said society could only "blossom when we accept there is no prize more valuable than the joy and self-esteem associated with, for example, the mastering of a skill, the defeat of a mental obstacle, or the sensation of having one's eyes opened to the beauties of literature, mathematics and science".

"I simply do not believe that passion for subject or skill, combined with inspiring teaching, can be replaced by computer-driven modules, which seem to occupy a disproportionate amount of current practice."

The prince runs his own summer schools for state school teachers of English and history.

In the letter, read out to delegates at the AoC's annual conference in Birmingham, he said those attending could "rediscover the strength of narrative, story-telling and chronology".

In his speech earlier, the Education Secretary, Charles Clarke, describing the number of people enrolling on basic skills courses, joked that the prince would label him a "Gradgrind".

He added that skills training offered by colleges had to be more employer- and employee-focused.


Colleges currently get 11% of their funding from businesses and student fees, and Mr Clarke said he wanted that to increase.

However, extra government spending would mean the further education sector getting 10bn a year by 2007-8.

This, according to the AoC, represents a rise of 5% a year above the rate of inflation.

However, it argues that the planned 7% annual increase for higher education, as well as increased tuition fees from 2006, puts its members at a disadvantage.

The AoC says this is unfair, as it has to deal with changes to the curriculum for 14 to 19 year olds, including more children studying part-time within colleges.

This, it says, will be damaging to adult learning, with many courses having to be cut to save money.

The AoC's conference runs until Thursday.

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05 Oct 02 |  Education

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