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Education – Back to the drawing board

“Dad, what’s the Point of going to School?”
“So you can learn things and pass exams and get into university.”
“But what’s the point of that?”
“To get a degree.”
“Why?”
“To get a good job when you’re grown up”
“Oh!”

Do we, as adults, know any better answers to these childish questions? There are of course many vocational subjects where a degree is a necessary preparation for an adult career. But even there, it often happens that the degree relates only very loosely to the career which follows. A lawyer usually starts with a degree in law, but this may be simply because it is a required qualification; it isn’t necessarily because it’s a firm practical grounding in real law. I’m not a lawyer, but a successful City solicitor has told me that she learned very little at University which helped her with her subsequent career. I wonder how many other lawyers/doctors/engineers/whatever would say the same?

Then there are the ‘softer’ subjects like Media Studies. A career in the media sounds very exciting when you’re eighteen. But if that’s the subject you choose, your teachers are quite likely to be people who have failed to make the grade in the media (where they might have become successful, rich and famous) and been glad to get a job where at least they can earn a living. Since they were not very successful in the media, their knowledge and experience may not be very useful to their students. The old words “If you can, do. If you can’t, teach!” often apply.

Even if you are foolish enough to study a worthwhile but impractical subject like history, and you don’t want to be a teacher or an academic, a degree on your CV does definitely help you to get a job. Ask employers why and they will tell you it’s because anyone who is intelligent and has reached the age of 24 without getting a degree in one subject or another is probably not the kind of person they want to employ. It’s the normal thing to do now, and if you haven’t done it, you must be either too stupid or too unconventional – either way, not what the employer is looking for.

Let’s go back in time to the school years. Let’s suppose, for the sake of argument, that the subjects you study there are worthwhile subjects and are well taught. When you’ve studied them, you take exams in them. What do the exams measure? Knowledge and understanding of the subject? Or careful preparation of likely questions, combined with a level head and a good night’s sleep before the exam?

And so on. As parents, can we really feel sure that the production line we automatically put our children through is really the preparation they need for their adult lives? As voters and taxpayers, can we be sure that the schools and colleges we provide for British children are turning out the informed, responsible, public-spirited people whom we would like to have as future citizens? How can we justify the compulsion we exert on children to attend these schools?

We in UKIP need to think about these things. If UKIP is ever in power (and that time may be getting ever nearer) we shall have the opportunity to radically remodel British education. Time to start thinking now, perhaps.

I hope to put forward some of my ideas on this subject in UKIP Daily and I hope others will do so too. As a start, can I make a suggestion? Why not give us the benefit of your personal experience with a few words about your education and how  you feel it benefited you (or failed to benefit you) in adult life. And any conclusions or suggestions which you draw from your own experience. Write anonymously if you wish, but it would be helpful to know your age and sex.

If you can find time to write a few words, I have time to read them and (if enough people respond) to write up some general conclusions and hopefully to publish them in UKIP Daily. Please add your comment below, or send them to mike.munford@btinternet.com

Photo by pni

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About Mike Munford (57 Articles)
Mike Munford is a member of UKIP, a retired businessman and a lifelong student of English history.

2 Comments on Education – Back to the drawing board

  1. It is true that the content of my subjects studied at university, physics and computer science, were not used directly, but the methods behind them certainly were put to good use. Whenever it came to dealing with complex topics not directly in scope of my subjects, the ability to analyse and identify the areas where I would have to either take the time to understand myself, or appoint someone else with right background, was very valuable. Also, those subjects taught the skill of abstraction, the way in which you can reduce a seemingly intractable problem area into simpler elements, making the solutions more obvious and easier.

  2. Looks like I’ll be the first to take the plunge …
    Wasn’t there a survey made by the OECD about educational levels in member states, and didn’t that show that the UK was the only country in which the age group of 60+ did better, across the board, than all the other age groups in the UK?
    Therefore, I believe that our educational system has been so damaged that it might well be beyond retrieval, Mr Gove’s academies notwithstanding.
    Furthermore, it is doubtful if a ‘return to the past’ is even possible because our culture is now about feelings and identity groups, not about facts or even, God forbid, thinking for oneself.
    That – thinking for oneself, constantly questioning one’s own perception such as ‘did I see what I expected to see or wanted o see, or did I see what was really there?’ – were what we were taught in addition to the subjects we studied. Thinking outside the box was rewarded. No longer …
    In any case, I believe too much is being made of pseudo-academic subjects and not enough of the bread-and-butter skills, from brick laying to tayloring.
    “We now have computers” doesn’t cut it in a world rushing to impoverishing itself.

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