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Conference 2016: Education, Education, Education…. ….An Engineering View

Grammar Schools, Science Technology Engineering and Maths [STEM] and a Smaller State.

UKIP London Assembly Member David Kurten AM delivered an excellent, upbeat and forward thinking speech to the Party Conference, drawing focus on a key policy area. David spoke well on UKIP’s  Grammar School policy recently adopted by Theresa May. David spoke of the importance of nurturing a culture of excellence in education; he spoke from his experiences as a professional teacher. The denouncement of Political Correctness and the defence of free thought and expression were also strong themes delivered with style and a smile.

Problems abound with the UK education system, (Michael Gove’s ‘Blob’) from early years right through to University level. The UK rankings in the OECD Literacy and Numeracy Indices makes depressing reading. UKIP needs to continue developing and promoting a common sense policy offer tailored to predictable future needs. We need to teach our young how to think, not what to think.

Young people who study hard in STEM subjects have real opportunities in the future BREXIT Britain, much more so than the opportunities that will be available to Peace Studies, Diversity Studies or Gender Studies graduates. UKIP policies should facilitate STEM and draw back on taxpayer financing for those undergraduate courses which provide no tangible productive or constructive educational benefit.

Specialist  Problem Solvers have Evolved

Take structural engineering for example, an applied science: the art of science as manifested in the built environment. Once it was a sub-specialism of the ‘Master Builder’ or ‘Architect’, yet now it is a distinct profession as time has moved on. Architects once had the knowledge of structural engineering, of gravity, wind, earthquake and fire. They once had understanding of stone, iron, timber, stability, material science, Young and Hooke, Newton and Pascal, Bernoulli and Euler. A divorce occurred. Engineering disciplines separated, structurally, civilly, and accountancy functions were specialised and rebranded to survey quantities (add up). Later, the health and safety ‘professionals’ and regulatory advisors arrived. How the crony corporatists rejoiced as costs to cover statutory burdens grew! The detailed understanding of the science underpinning architecture fell within the custody of the Structural Engineer as their truths became opaque, foggy and mysterious to the artistry and modernity of the New World Architect: a specialist has evolved. This specialist is needed.

The Structural Engineer is the guy who did learn about Newton and Hooke. He did Maths and Physics and Chemistry at school (you’d better hope he did). He studied Statics, Statistics, Statical Determinacy, Mechanisms, Moments of Inertia, Bending Moments, Shear and Axial Forces, Deflections and Torsions, Distortions and Analysis of Force Distributions. He learned to understand the soil below our feet and the rock. The sand, the silt, the clay. How it might move, swell or compress.

The Structural Engineer (you hope) is the guy who knows how to bring all these disparate fields of accrued scientific advancement in our knowledge of the physical world together, to ensure that the building you work in, the roof that keeps the rain from your head when you disembark from the train at Kings Cross, the bridges you cycle over on the way to the cinema in which you enjoy your film, do not through some mathematical oversight, or deficit in knowledge and understanding, collapse and kill you under a tangled wreck of concrete glass and steel. Yes, this specialist is needed.

The scattering and dilution of responsibilities resulting from the continuing drive to specialisation of disciplines opens up a world of potential riches to the professional problem solver. These specialists need a thorough and rigorous education, one which is not being adequately provided under Labour and Conservative stewardship.

Less Government Spending. More Private Capital Investment. Sound Money Please!

Once there was a Brunel or a Telford, a Duke of Wellington of his own endeavour, unleashed and dismissive of interference, he got on with achieving his objective. He was backed by private money, sound money, often unwisely and at substantial loss to the investor. Acts of Parliament permitted and facilitated these constructions of the industrial revolution. Private money financed them, not tithes on the poor.

Now there is the Architect, the Structural Engineer, Mechanical Engineer, Electrical Engineer, the Civil Engineer, the Highways Engineer, the Water Engineer, the Quantity Surveyor, the Contractor, the Planning Supervisor, the Health and Safety advisor, the Environmental Engineer, the Planning Officer, the Heritage geezer, the Bat protection Officer, and Uncle Tom Cobley … otherwise known as ‘The Design Team’. And you don’t see the ‘finance guys’ – the Developers, the Insurers the Bankers and the Quangocrats.  State finance, profligacy, fractional reserve banking and continuous budget deficits, free our New World Architects – our governmental social engineers – from the inconveniences of understanding feasibility, utility and cost benefit.

Adam Smith gave us lessons in the division of labour, but to apply his theory to division of intellectual labour can reduce efficiency and economy, especially when the economic interests of the disparate intellects are not mutually entwined and there is a vulnerable purse available – that of the taxpayer in the hands of a profligate Government. UKIP policies should promote a financial prudence and a contraction of the state.

Opportunity for Young STEM Students

Educated specialists, whether in an engineering discipline or some other field, such as pharmaceuticals or agriculture will be professionals that a prosperous future will demand. UKIP educational policy should reflect this and equip our young accordingly.

There’s a world of work out there for students of Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics in a whole variety of fields, Structural Engineering being but one. By focusing educational resources at the development of young minds in free, independent thought and providing a rigorous STEM curriculum, by pursuing policies that provide stable,  sound financial structures with fewer resources directed by the state – then our young may attain the tools to become the creators of their more prosperous futures.

 

Photo by Gurit Composites

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James Dalton
About James Dalton (28 Articles)
James Dalton stood as PPC for Barnsley East in the GE 2017

15 Comments on Conference 2016: Education, Education, Education…. ….An Engineering View

  1. In my honest opinion, David Kurten should stand for Leader. I witnessed his speech which was delivered with emphasis (without Common Purpose puppet hands), with humour and a great presence. Has he been sounded out?
    By the way I agree with your article completely James Dalton. Are you standing for NEC?

  2. UKIP needs to evaluate the cost-benefits of fully-fledged 4-Year (hands-on)Apprenticeship simultaneously with an ONC for mechanical, electrical, electronics, IT., etc. This should contribute to filling the vacuum between university and reality; this is one of the reasons why – whatever politicians say – insurance companies will not accept a PhD in Engineering as sole sailing Chief Engineer on ocean-going ships without “conditions”. I know this from personal experience.

  3. I thought everyone in Pink Floyd was dead. Still. I quite liked their music though.

  4. “The Design Team” and “The Finance Team”
    I would also put a word in for the “Onsite Team”.
    The Contractor`s Agent, , The Building Clerk of Works, The Mechanical Clerk of Works, The Electrical Clerk of Works, If it`s a University job, the Vice Chancellor or his go to assistant The Nominated Mechanical Subcontractor`s supervisor, The Nominated Electrical Subcontractor`s supervisor and often many other Nominated Subcontractors.
    In my day as a contractor`s Surveyor I found that working for a private owner was often profitable and relationships and on site day to day instructions were usually immediately forthcoming and it was a relative pleasure.
    Public works and I am particularly talking about Universities, hospitals, Schools etc. and other major works such as the British Library – I only worked on a University, but if they ran true to form they were a nightmare.
    The main problem was the money and where (whose pocket) was it coming from. first it was a project, then it had to go into a budget, at that stage it was a ball park estimate, which you could take a bet would be an outrage – it would never go ahead at that price, so it would be cut, then again and again and so on . Then it would go out to tender and the contractor priced it – Oh my god it has come in at double budget, we`ll have to redesign the whole thing as something simpler and get the contractor to cut his prices anyway. It was the custom when I started 1960`s; work was so scarce that contractors were submitting nett tenders i.e. no expected profit except what the surveyor could make on the claim. Oh yes there would always be a claim (I prepared quite a few)
    The upshot as I say of public works was often mayhem – virtual war.
    Imagine an Architect`s meeting with The contractor`s area supervisor, the site agent and the site surveyor ranged AGAINST perhaps 10/15 of what`s laughingly called the building “team”.
    It was often mayhem could almost be withdrawing from site time. Oh and I forgot the professional QS, could also be paid an additional overriding fee to ensure the budget was kept unsullied. If there was a claim from the contractor, if it was due to Architects instructions and change of design, if it was the Architect`s fault it would have to be made against his professional insurance – Who made the bullets? – the Surveyor.
    Just think about it How did the Scottish Parliament account go from a budget of Circa £4million to a final account of c£40million
    How did the 2012 Olympics go from an .
    original budget of c£4billion to a final account of c£9 billion.
    I`ve no idea what the British Library cost or period overran or the Barbican scheme..
    So yes, get all these professionals trained as highly as possible by all means, but make sure the finances are right before starting and they operate in harmony – I`m sure the disharmony I saw was because they all feared for their jobs.
    Oh! one final truism (possibly) the Contractor who got the job was usually the one that made the biggest mistake in his tender.!

    • Hello Roger,

      Yes, you are right to give the “on site” team a mention.

      Your examples are but a few of many, where the taxpayers hard-earned is squandered by regulation and governmental incompetence in the prudent direction of public spending. You comments reflect the frustrations and experiences of so many ‘older hands’ in the construction game.

  5. Excellent piece James. The sooner we utilise the knowledge of the dying breed of engineers who got a full-fat four year apprenticeship to train a new crop of youngsters for the post-brexit manufacturing renaissance the better.

    If that’s best done through private enterprise setting up training colleges and charging private companies great. I govt sees the light, sorts out our immigration quotas, and funds our own youngsters who need that training, that’s fine by me too.

    Let’s just get it done.

    • Thanks for the feedback Roger.

      There are many looking forward to your upcoming presentation on the Climate Change Act and Energy Policy in October Rog! I hope you are well prepared, and bring some of your local members.

      Let’s get it done, indeed.

  6. Schrödinger's cat // September 24, 2016 at 1:49 pm // Reply

    We need to teach our young how to think, not what to think

    Amen to that!

    • How sad that this is where our education system is and I believe this is the nub of the issue. There is a dark sarcasm in the classroom.

      “..we don’t need no thought control..” . Well that’s where we are: Many young adults who have been taught what, and not how, to think – and it shows!

      The Blair years have put one after another brick, in The Wall. It won’t be easy to dismantle this wall and right the educational ship. Michael Gove may have partially seen the nature of the problem, but the political will isn’t with the Tories.

      Yet again. Thanks for your interest Mr Cat….

      (apologies to Pink Floyd)

      • The “Wall”; still popular in some places. Every time I hear it I am reminded of the need to re-educate my kids who have suffered the indoctrination. A difficult but necessary task.

      • Schrödinger's cat // September 25, 2016 at 8:17 am // Reply

        My appreciation of Pink Floyd – and I did go to see ‘The Wall’ in its original presentation, was always tinged with some distaste that its members, particularly Roger Waters, were socialists.

        But they ran their business side like any multinational, despite nearly going bust over the costs of The Wall!

        I still like their music but can readily reject both sides of their contradictory political approach.

  7. “…draw back on taxpayer financing for those undergraduate courses which provide no tangible productive or constructive educational benefit.”

    Absolutely; I believe a degree was being offered by Bournemouth University in something to do with “surfing” (in the sea, not on the web) when I was last in the UK. What possible benefit to anyone including the participants? Sadly I expect there are many more of similar value which need to be seen off and the funding transferred to Engineering courses (or some other useful subjects).

  8. James, well said and very enlightening. I do agree of course that the soft so-called) social sciences are not as important as ones in STEM.

    I applaud your statement that we need to balance the books and at the same time spend more to encourage STEM students.

    Like everyone else who comes on BBC news each day with a recent study, the solution of which is that their cause needs more financial support. Everyone is doing it! They are all in a parallel universe where available money is not an issue.
    Like Owen Smith who wants to spend an additional £60b on the NHS over the period of the next parliament.

    In the case of education the usual departmental allowance is 13.75% of gross national income. With the government running an ever increasing deficit there is no prospect of any more money for anyone and indeed some real cuts will need to be made.

    So assuming a 1.8% growth rate to April 2021, the departmental budget for education is likely to be £96b. How would you suggest we spend it and as an education policy for our manifesto?

    • Hello Antony,

      Thank you for your comment.

      Firstly, it is critical to thrash out the principles as a Party to ensure the approach to education is both fiscally and socially responsible. This of course is in keeping with our Party’s Constitution, but the discourse needs to be aired widely.

      Secondly, once such principles are agreed, the problems need more fully defining and explaining such that sustainable and strategic policies can be developed – most critically I believe in the pre-school and early years age groups.

      Your final question is a key one wrt our Party Policy offer and is worthy of an article in response as I couldn’t do it justice in a brief comment. The sooner these issues are discussed widely within the Party, drawing on the expertise of working professionals, educators and administrators and (dare I say it) philosophers, the better our final Policy offer will be. The current Ponzi scheme working in Higher education is where I would start. The taxpayer and future taxpayer is currently funding an erosion in productivity in our young and adding to unfunded liabilities to placate incompetent populist politicians – you really couldn’t make it up!

      Thanks again.

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