The education culture today is deluded, and how we see different subjects is damaging to the system itself.
Labours targets of 50 % of students advancing to university was always going to be unrealistic. The economy would seriously suffer if anything like those numbers aimed for the highest post-graduate jobs, with many of today’s students holding off until they get the jobs they want. This would leave lower-paid jobs including manual labour employment empty, as they are seen as lacking in aspirations, not important or even boring.
However, these workers are still vital for our economy. From dustbin collectors to plumbers and maintenance repair staff, we simply couldn’t function as a society without then. Whether they require training on the job or in college, these jobs are just as important as university graduates.
Is university the only way to a good job? Clearly not; there are many builders, carpenters, music producers and chefs out there who will earn thousands of pounds more per year than I when I come out of university with an arts degree in a few years time, hoping to go into a career in the wonderful rollercoaster world of journalism. They didn’t go to university.
Of course university isn’t for everyone. My sister, if she decides to go, will be enrolling at a university in 2013, after the rise to £9000 tuition fees. She’s not a mad lover of school, but she’s currently about to start her A Levels at the local grammar school sixth form. From the school environment we came from, it’s very much encouraged that the only way to go is to university, yet she is very sensibly thinking of other options such as practical courses.
So why is it that we see practical based courses as not as worthy as academic ones? A college student studying an electrics course may not be able to go into as many careers as one with a Mathematics degree, but they could just as easily have the opportunities to start their own business and go on to bigger and better things.
The fact is that we can learn all we ever need to know for a job from books – we only go to university for the degree qualification to say we actually did the qualification we did. What, then, is the real point of paying thousands of pounds for something we can get from books?
As I said in my other post, university isn’t just about learning from books, sitting exams, falling asleep in lecturers and such like. It’s about the experience, and that is what employers value when looking for an employee – the transferable life skills that you learn outside of your university degree.
In fact, there are many jobs still around today where you don’t need anything but A levels and an attitude to go far. I did some work experience at a newspaper recently and one of the main news reporters got straight out of school, did a gap year and went straight into journalism by sending out letters and CVs to every publication in the area.
Aside from the fact that journalism degrees and others such as media or communication studies are not seen as worthwhile, they teach many students skills that they could learn quicker and easier on the job than for three years at university.
Even the humanities and arts degrees are being seen more and more as being less important, as demonstrated by the recent freeze of the STEM university budgets despite cuts to humanities subjects.
It’s time we started seeing subjects not just in comparison to others, but for what they are. Admittedly, there are some subjects which are harder and more worthwhile to study as a degree, but that doesn’t mean the rest aren’t worth studying. The importance of the arts and social sciences are not to be underestimated; they bring diversity to education that we would be at a loss without. If anyone wants to live in a world filled with facts, equations and numbers without the balance of beauty, art, culture and opinion, then be my guest and ignore the latter half of my sentance, but my History and Politics degree and I won’t be joining you.