A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

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In the previous section an account, was given of the attitudes people have to the educational process as it exists at present. The next aspect of the problem which needs study is clearly the existence of a desire to change the system.

The problem was approached in stages. At first, a general question was put to all informants asking them to say whether there were any ways in which they thought the system could be improved, and if so, what ways. They were given the opportunity to talk freely about this.

Following on this general approach, detailed questions were asked about opinion on possible changes in curricula.

All informants were asked the following question:-

“Do you think there are any ways in which the whole system of education could be improved?”

Age: 20-29 30-39 40-54 Total
% % % %
Satisfied with System 15 10 13 12
“Don’t Know”, “Can’t Say” 19 13 14 14
Made positive suggestions 66 77 73 74
SAMPLE: 107 240 394 741
Age: 20-29 30-39 40-54 Total Whole Sample
% % % % %
Satisfied with System 12 17 17 16 14
“Don’t Know”, “Can’t Say” 29 23 23 24 20
Made positive suggestions 59 60 61 60 66
SAMPLE: 341 458 425 1224 1965

It will be noted that one third of the sample said they were either satisfied with the present system or were unable to suggest any changes.

Men were rather more forthcoming with suggestions than women and this is true at all ages. It will however, be noticed that whereas about 40% of women in each of the age groups had no positive suggestions to make for changing the system, rather more of the younger than of the older men were unable to make positive suggestions. It should be borne in mind that at the time of the survey, a large proportion of the men in the younger age groups were on active service and were therefore not included in the sample.

Informants in the upper income groups and with secondary or higher education, had many more suggestions to make than other groups.

Whereas only 20% of the highest income group (wage rate of chief earner in family £10 a week and over) had no positive suggestions to make, or were satisfied with the existing system, the proportion of such people in the lower income group were more than 50%. More housewives were satisfied or unable to make positive suggestions than people in other occupation groups. More of these in the clerical, administrative and managerial groups than of those in other groups made suggestions.

There was once again little difference between the proportions of those with and without children of their own making different answers.

Rather fewer people suggested improvements in Wales than in other parts of the country, and rather more in the London area did so.

It seemed desirable to find out the extent to which the desire for change was connected with personal satisfaction as far as education was concerned, and the answers to this question were therefore analysed by the answers made to another question.

“Do you think there are any ways in which the whole system of education could be improved?” “Would you rather your education had been different?”
Yes No
% %
Satisfied with System 11 21
“Don’t Know”, “Can’t Say” 16 26
Made positive suggestions 73 53
SAMPLE 1250 652

More of the informants who were dissatisfied with their own education made positive suggestions for changing the present system. However, it will be noticed that a quarter of all those who wished that their own education had been different had no positive suggestions to make.

What are the changes in the system suggested?

The answers given to the question are summarised below.

“Do you think there are any ways in which the whole system of education could be improved?

Everyone should have an equal chance, more scholarships, grants to the poor 22
Children should stay at school till 15/16 7
More individual attention should be given 9
Specialise in subject child is interested in, find out what child wants to do 8
Curricula should be wider 13
Higher standard of teaching, more practical teaching needed 5
Better buildings, conditions etc 5
Abolish or improve church and village schools 2
Abolish exams 1
Shorter holidays, less homework 1
Learn three ‘Rs’ properly 1
Education should help in after life 1
Vague remarks 1
Miscellaneous 4
Satisfied with system 14
Don’t know, can’t say 20
SAMPLE: 1965

It should be noted that some informants made more than one suggestion, Thus the percentages given above add to more than 100. 27% of the sample made either the first or the second suggestion and 16% either the third or the fourth. It will be seen that the two latter are concerned mostly with improving teaching methods. 13% suggested changes in curricula.

It should be noted that the question was a general one, and that informants were not asked here whether or not they would support particular improvements. When people were asked, for instance, whether they approved of the raising of the school leaving age, a much higher proportion said they approved than mentioned raising the school leaving age spontaneously in answer to this question.

The results are of interest mainly in showing what improvements are uppermost in people’s minds and they do not show what proportions of the population support the different improvements.

Analysis of these results by sex showed no statistically significant differences However the lower income groups and those who had had only elementary education showed higher proportions making the first two suggestions that all children should have an equal chance and that the leaving age should be raised. The higher income groups more frequently said that more individual attention should be given and that children should specialise more.


The results given in the two last sections may be summarised as follows: Two-thirds of the sample were dissatisfied with their own education. Dissatisfaction was greatest in the middle economic group, and amongst those with elementary education only. The majority of the adult population feel that they have suffered in adult life because of the limitations of their education, and consequently would prefer to have reached a higher level of education.

More parents were satisfied with their children's’ education than were people with their own, and more of those whose children had higher education than those, whose children had only elementary education were satisfied in favour of an increase in expenditure on education that of the parents of elementary school children. There was however support for further expenditure on education.

When informants were asked if there were ways in which the system of education would be improved, two-thirds were able to make positive suggestions, 27% of the sample mentioned the need for “everyone to have an equal chance” or for the need to raise the school leaving age, 16% of the sample wanted teaching methods improved, and 13% wanted changes in curricula.

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