The Age Of Consumerism
For a long time, Britons have been hesitant to complain about poor service. Often, when dining out and asked by the waiter if the food is satisfactory, customers simply nod in agreement even if the meal is terrible. Rather than confront the waiter and be perceived as difficult, most choose to never return. The general population of the UK tend to lack consumer power, particularly when it comes to state-provided services. However, a new trend is starting to emerge in public policy to challenge the value of goods and services offered by both the government and private sector.
Early initiatives include the publication of health service waiting lists to encourage people to question the efficiency of service. The Department of Trade and Industry has also introduced the "Modern Markets: Confident Consumers" white paper to support the "Rip Off Britain" campaign against dishonest traders in various markets. Although it suggests that people in the UK are not particularly apt at complaining, this new trend is starting to change that.
Now, post-16 education and training is joining the trend by adopting a demand-led system that gives consumers greater control over the courses available in their local areas. The system will provide more information for learners and enable fairer competition between training providers. This approach will treat learners as informed consumers who will have more choices starting at age 16 and throughout their lives.
However, there are challenges to the consumerism approach when it comes to education and training. Providing learners and employers with the necessary information is crucial. Learning is more complex than buying a meal – it requires feedback that should be measurable and evaluated to ensure effective learning. Providing feedback on customer satisfaction could be an option, but focusing on the satisfaction of learners will require assessing whether they are being taught effectively, understand what they are learning, and how it is relevant to their goals. This will require a more personalized, reflective, and responsive approach from educators.
This approach will transform learners into influential consumers who can raise the quality of education in the market. It is no longer acceptable to simply "choose not to consume a product" when it comes to education, a service that is vital to individuals and society as a whole. The age of consumerism has arrived in education.