What is education for?

At long last, Government seems to be waking up to fact that it is not only education in the ‘Early Years’ that needs attention and reform.

For some time now, it has been obvious that secondary and higher education are in a mess, serving individuals and society very poorly indeed.

The rot set in, I would argue, in 1965 – with the introduction of comprehensive schooling and was further compounded with abandonment of technical colleges and subsequent widening of university status to previous ‘techs’, colleges of further education and training colleges.

At last, it is being realised that in our technical and vocational education, we have failed ourselves. Too much emphasis has gone on pursuing the so-called ‘academic’ route, opening it up to all – even to those who do not want it, do not benefit from it and who would have thrived much better in pursuing the ‘non-academic’ route.

The announcement of Technical Schools (in The Times 07.01.11) is to be applauded as part, one hopes of a thoroughly extensive overhaul of our education needs and priorities.

We need to be helping pupils towards university, technical training and/or work. It is wrongly assumed that university education in ‘academic’ subjects is what all young people should be doing. It isn’t!

Apparently, the recently published book “The Case for Working with Your Hands” by Matthew Crawford – which argues the case for crafts and trades skills – has had an impact, with the author being invited to London to speak by the education secretary, Michael Gove. Industrial concerns, like JCB – which has been a prime mover in seeking better education for the next generation of engineers in its JCB Academy – have also been pressurising the Government for change.

Industry and individuals will benefit if we all accept the argument that, for human beings and society to flourish, we need to embrace the importance of technical and manual skills and change the way we do things. At the same time we need more vocational training – to give people skills that they can use and others can benefit from. Let’s give people the skills they need to work for themselves or to get jobs and not, as we are now doing, educate them for unemployment.

Published on Jan 10, 2011 by Neil Thomas