My own experience of this was during doing my law degree, which I did as a mature student; one of the optional modules was on International Criminal Law. Which we naturally covered the Nuremberg and Japanese war crimes trials and about 60% of the class had no idea what they were; and when the tutor said well if you don’t know what they are to go and read up on them there was outrage. Because these people had been spoon feed up till then on how to pass an exam. Now this to me says there is something wrong with how we are teaching people in the UK, and something needs to change.
But this leaves us with a problem as the current system is set up to treat everyone the same in that we have a comprehensive education system where the very brightest are in the same system with those who are not as smart. It is this attitude that everyone can be anything they want to be which is in my opinion wrong. We should be encouraging the children to be the best they can be and not setting one against the other.
I would personally propose a three tier education system, with an increase in the number of grammar schools to encourage the academically gifted to push themselves in an environment set up for academia. To produce the new Doctors, Lawyers, scientists of tomorrow in an environment that is conducive to this.
I would maintain a middle level of education which would focus on a mixture of academic and practical skills. So these children got a well-rounded education which could see them go off to university if they wanted but would equally leave them in a position where they could go off and pick up a trade become an electrician or a carpenter or something along those lines.
Then in my third tier it would be for those people who naturally struggle with academic work, and it would focus on teaching them practical life skills give them a basic understanding in English, Maths and Science but teaching them that you don’t have to be smart to be a success. You could have these people being taught bricklaying, carpentry, plumbing, cookery, dressmaking ect.
This New Labour idea that everyone should go to university is well stupid. Everyone should have the opportunity to go to university but we need to change social attitudes so that success is not measured in how many qualifications someone has or hasn’t got. As a country to be success full needs a varied mix of people with all skills; with this current attitude to education we will start to lose those important skills.
We need to instil in to children that being a Chief or a Plumber is as important to society as being a Doctor or a Nurse. Get rid of this stigma that exists that just because someone uses their hands and not a computer that their job is somehow lesser.
So let’s bring back grammar schools for the bright, and encourage the rest to explore options to broaden their horizons and explore other options for employment. 100 years ago to become an apprentice for a skilled artisan was a prized thing; we should look to the past for how to improve the future.