Further Education

February 10th, 2011

There has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth recently over the coalition governments decisions regarding tuition fees or more importantly the tax payers contribution to funding these fees.

In my view one should stand back and ask what is the purpose of education and who should be funding it. Primary and secondary education in this country has for some time been publicly funded. Everyone in this country will to a greater or lesser degree benefit from this level of education and it is perfectly reasonable that it should be funded by the public. On the whole ‘A’ levels are a preparation for university or other forms of further education and were traditionally the preserve of the most able students. Successive governments have lowered the standards of the examinations taken during secondary education and the last administration basically told the populace that a very high percentage of sixteen year old should be going on to take ‘A’ and as many as possible should be ‘doing’ degree courses.

The examination results show that the education system is pouring out highly educated young people, but the reality is somewhat different.  When Lauryn, my girlfriend’s daughter,  joined her 6th form college she was gob smacked by the educational level of her fellow students. They have no knowledge at all of current affairs and their standard of reading and writing is abysmal. A friend of mine was teaching at a local FE college, teaching ‘key skills’ and was horrified by the lack of basic numeracy and literacy of the kids he was supposed to be teaching. These students weren’t bottom of the pile numpties, but carrying numerous  ‘A’ grade GCSEs. They couldn’t spell to save their lives, had no idea about grammar and punctuation was no existent.

I personally left school at sixteen having had enough and went on to do an engineering apprenticeship. I am not especially academic and really had too many bad experiences at school. In later years I did regret not having taken the opportunity to take advantage of a university education, but as they say youth is wasted on the young.  I did, however, get a good solid secondary education which stood me in good stead for life with seven good ‘O’ levels. ‘O’ standing for ordinary and ‘A’ standing for advanced. The clue is in the names – Advanced Level is for the very top students to be able to prove to a future employer or university that they are capable of working hard and have intelligence and understanding well above the average.

Some of the degree courses on offer at the present time are ridiculous and have seriously degraded the value of holding a degree. The whole point of a university education is to teach the student a serious subject in some depth, proving a knowledgebase and an ability to knuckle down and work hard to a potential employer. The Brown/Blair government devalued university education to a frightening level, and insisted that this level of education should be a right for anyone regardless of income, social status or a need for such an education. The result thousands of students clutching devalued degrees on the dole queue or performing the sort of employment that a graduate wouldn’t traditionally be expected to do. The previous administration  encouraged youngsters to go into further education partly to hide the fact that unemployment was far worse that they were pretending.

I do not believe that each and every tax payer should be funding unnecessary education for the sake of it. This country is not in a position to pay for it and as for ‘bribing’ the little darlings with EMAs – that was absolute insanity! The image of those against the EMS cessation is of the children of the poor who were getting help from the government to buy text books  etc; the reality is that they were spending the education grant on cigarettes, alcohol, phone cards …. My own semi-estranged son admitted to me that he spent his first EMA on comic books and other such teenage lifestyle inperatives. Lauryn tells me what the youngsters in her college spent their EMAs on. You talk to any nightclub or bar owner in the vicinity of a university and they will tell you that a massive amount of student income is spent on alcohol and general partying.

Lauryn is serious about becoming a lawyer, and has no problem at all with borrowing the cost of her education as she is only too aware that the resulting qualifications should mean that she will be in the market for a very well paid job at the end of it and so will be able to pay back the loan with the fruits of it. My girlfriend and myself are not in a position to fund her education. She will not be expected to pay back her tuition fees loan until she has landed a job paying enough to do so. Lauryn is not some goody two shoes and has got into all sorts of trouble during her adolescence but is a realist. She’s not from a wealthy background but the opportunities are there for her, but the coalition government are now saying enough is enough, this country is virsually bankrupt, we don’t want to go the way of Greece or Southern Ireland so we must stop funding wastrels.

The only students who wont take advantage of university education in the future are those who wanted to continue education as an easy alternative to working. Their background and parent’s wealth is no barrier and hasn’t been for many years.

3 Responses to “Further Education”

  1. james says:

    actually, i spent my first block of ema, when i eventually got paid, wa son a new school bag, that i was in need of for the last few years, thats right i had the same bag since year 5!!!
    and after that i had ot buy comics for TWO of my subjects, art and extended project, with te reamining money i saved up to buy my self a much needed mountain bike, so i can get fit and healthy and learn a new skill, which went towards my duke of edingburgh, and after that i have used ema to pay for extra curricular activities, such as mountain biking the ten tors challenge, duke of edingburgh, WSJ 2011, and such things that have benfited my self being, and such helping me get in to uni to study my life long dream of doing robotics! i would have got a job last year, but due to teh fact that i was doing soo much to helop others and progessively ran out of time to actually get a job without my learning getting affected!
    and EMA was a great scheme that can help students studying a-levels who have potential who would other wise go get a job duer to their upbringing background, i know one, and he wanst even thinking of doing uni, due to finicial situation of his background, but if it wasnt for EMA and student finance then he would be working full time at krusty krap(Krispy Kreme) full time rtaher very much part time, its amazing how much he has changed since starting 6th form, hes now studying to do some highlevel maths baswed engineering degree, which will benefit society!!
    so there are many more benfits, but the people your etalking about are a split few, and many students that are friends of mine actually have jobs such as within the uni whichi pays for their drinking partyuing and general letting off of steam, and everybody should think thats ok, uni is an intense thing where it can get tense and streesful, some do take the piss, by studying pointless stupid degrees like surfing etc, but they are a minority who are also the drunken dicks who waste their student fees on booze, who they are normally the dropouts anyway!

  2. Lauryn says:

    I first would like to reply to the fact that you say you haven’t got a job. I’m a full time A level student, and have myself a part time job which allows me to not have EMA. Sadley my parents aren’t the richest, yet I don’t get EMA and have to support myself finically, needless to say with my A & B grades that my learning hasen’t suffered. I’m of the belief, and it’s not an unfounded one, that EMA is not essentially. It wasn’t around two years ago, yet people still managed to go to college. If you want to go to universtity, then the debt is something which one has to put up with, the job you will aquire from attending university will be substanially better paid then thoses who don’t, you will also benefit society by paying more tax, spending more therfore helping the economy and so on.
    I do agree that subjects such as surfing at university are ridiculous, but you have to ask your self the question of: if the university offers such subjects is it really of good standing?

    In conclusion, in my experiance I’ve found the majority of neanderthals who frequent my college are their purely for the fincial gain of EMA, and in the process hinder mine and others learning. EMA wasen’t around five years ago and people got jobs, and managed to learn at the same time, I’m proof of that. If your retort is “Ohhhh there are no jobs about” then you read the daily mail far to much and your obviously not looking. EMA should and will be scrapped. People who genuinly want to learn don’t have to be bribed to learn.

  3. Tailiftchris says:

    James. Many peoples “upbringing background” has little to do with their life chances. No, it is their expectations of what society owes them.
    I would say, as I do often, that far too many young people know much about their rights and bu**er all about their responsibilities. Thank goodness there are many people that know this already.
    If you want to get ahead in this world, get a hat ?

    And the hat in question is an aptitude to the world called society. Get volunteering. It looks great on the CV.

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