Education – how much is enough?

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No matter the decade, there is always something wrong with our education system. Either not enough people go on to higher education or there are too many; O levels are too difficult and a two tier system (CSE’s) has negative consequences for some, ditto polytechnics versus traditional universities. Grading systems within a single tier system got more ludicrous with the addition of symbols. Before you know it every percentage will have one and then someone will point out that instead of a grade why not just publish the actual number? How novel!

Outside this argument are of course the people who are digesting the information upon which they will be judged. Even though more people go to university than ever before they are no more intelligent than previous generations and, as employers have pointed out, lack the skills for work. This isn’t surprising when you learn that the Saturday job fell out of favour some while ago. One does wonder why parents didn’t or don’t insist their children have one, not for the money, but in preparation for what is to come.   Somewhere along the line, our view of what is important – life skills – has been skewed.

In our efforts to get everyone to pass the same exam at each and every level only increases supply and lowers salaries and therefore prospects. I have met some extremely well educated people but I wouldn’t put them in my lifeboat, but entrepreneurs without an education are so rare we do not believe that it is a plausible pathway.

Education use to be reserved for men so the acquisition of knowledge and the testing thereof has a male perspective.   This puts women at a disadvantage, even today. The IQ test has been derided by some because it favours scientists and mathematicians, which isn’t surprising if the person that devised it was that way inclined. But it is much easier to prove the answers that maths or science provide because it is black and white, right or wrong.

More recent studies have shown that teams consisting of both men and women produce better results than teams of one gender, but unfortunately one cannot go back in time to find papers, debates or theories by women in order to provide the balance required to debate in today’s situations. After all, that’s all education is – learning historical references of a subject, debating them within a present day framework and coming to a conclusion. If the developed world had been shaped by both genders equally our conclusions and judgements could well be broader and more interesting today and our problem solving quicker and more inventive.

History is a great subject, but I wish we could live in today’s world rather than have others pull us back to the past where social norms were different. Theories from the 18th century were dismissed or disproven a long time ago, yet are still being used as a guide today as if they had not been. There are so many examples of this – mental health, for example. The most well-known authors you will note are men and if you read what a psychiatrist writes today it is a regurgitated version of their disproven theories. They have absolutely no relevance in today’s social norms and for a supposedly intelligent person (seen as such because they are educated) to write such things does not help anyone at all.  One just has to recall the case of Staffordshire Hospital to know that education and intelligence are two very different things and genuine care is very different from being employed to do something.

Not that I’m picking on the medical profession deliberately, but it is a good example of a revered occupation attained only by higher education that doesn’t have all the answers even though many expect it to. Those working in it would answer ‘but we are only human’ – ah yes, but aren’t we all?

So if that amount of knowledge still doesn’t have the answers why bother spending so much time thinking it will? Can someone find new solutions to old problems without it? Being curious enough to try and smart enough to recognise the consequences makes it a possibility after all, isn’t that the beginning of education anyway?

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