The need for critical thinking in plans for prison education

A letter from Roy van den Brink-Budgen was recently published in the ‘FE Focus’ section of the UK’s ‘Times Education Supplement‘. The letter was concerned with the plan to link the funding of prison education to what happens to its students when they leave prison.

The letter argues that the plan has many problems and betrays a serious lack of critical thinking. There are so many variables involved that the idea that education providers should be paid according to ‘results’ is very difficult to defend. For example, there’s the issue of timescale – at one point should we say that an ex-prisoner has or has not succeeded? In addition, there’s the issue of context. A prisoner might be greatly committed to education and training whilst in prison, but it might be very difficult to sustain this commitment when they return to a chaotic domestic context. Furthermore, there’s the big problem of measurement. How do we define ‘success’ for an ex-prisoner in terms of education and training? No further offending but unemployed? Employed but still offending? And so on.

It can be seen that critical thinking would very much contribute to clarifying these problems (and, thus, possible solutions to them).

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