Richard Branson rejects ‘one size fits all’ education

Virgin boss debates the future of education, at the latest thought leadership series, ‘Disruptors’

Sir Richard Branson debated ‘The Future of Education,’ alongside his son Sam Branson at the latest of Virgin’s thought leadership series, ‘Disruptors’. Interviewed by two 14 year old students from School 21, a state-funded East London school, the father and son duo revealed their true feelings on the UK’s current education model.

Richard believes education should focus on sparking potential and some schools are failing to do this, limiting the ability for young people to prosper. He suggests time outside the classroom should be valued as a positive learning experience, and young people should be encouraged to take a gap year at 16. His views around the length of university courses were also expressed, commenting that shorter courses would mean young people get into the real world quicker without the burden of heavy debt.  

Richard said: “Ultimately, it’s about encouraging young people to find their own education path. In this country, we still hold an outdated view of education and expect everyone to take the traditional path at school. Students are individuals, yet school curriculums encourage conformity.” 

“The structure of university education puts the majority of students into the working world on the back foot financially as they are saddled with huge debts. By condensing courses, we will limit debts and get people into the real world sooner.” 

Speaking about his own experience, Sam Branson commented: “Education is about the individual and inspiring them without any pressure or judgement from parents and teachers. Growing up in the Branson household, we were encouraged to pursue our passions and experience as much as possible to inform our future decisions.”  

The Disruptors event aimed to explore new technologies in education, the impact on teaching methods, universal accessibility, STEM education, MOOCs and preparing our children for future jobs that are yet to exist.

Debate panellists included professor Brian Cox, Rod Bristow (President of Pearson Core Markets), Wendy Kopp (CEO & Co-Founder of Teach for All), Shantanu Sinha (President & COO of Khan Academy), and Toby Young (Founder of the West London Free School).