Education, Education, Education
'Education, education, education.'
Tony Blair et. al.
|What is it for?
What is university education for? Do you want to produce more identikit drones, or to empower and enrich peoples lives & skills? Ever increasing numbers of 18 year old students can only lead to the former. It is a simple matter of economics and time management.
Mature students consistently get more from degree courses than the late teenagers that we try to cram through the system. This I know from my own experience and from several years of observing students.
I have few illusions that the system will change in the current political climate, but have a utopian vision (inspired by Robert Pirsig and others):
A system where you get taught how to learn at school, not how to cram for exams. After basic schooling equivalent to Secondary or A-level, there is no pressure to go straight on to do a degree, in fact it is discouraged. (Do not kid yourself that A-levels have any other purpose than to try and prepare for a degree. A-levels are not complete in themselves, and were not even before the GCSE effect kicked in in the early Nineties.)#
A few years later, with experience and time to gain some direction in life, people make their way back to university level education, when they feel the need and have drive. You end up with university classes full of people who want to be there, are eager to learn and will seize any opportunities that come their way.
This vision does nothing to ease the financial problems of university education, with the exception that mature students might come with some savings, and certainly with more savvy about finding work to support themselves during the course (it is an accepted fact that students have to find term-time jobs to pay their way).
It is a sobering thought that students in Britain are building up a debt of about £30# a day during term time, assuming that they don't end up with an overdraft on top of their student loan. On the subject of overdrafts: current students leave their course with an average of £15,000 of debt, and low chances of getting a well paid job to pay it off.
If you get the feeling that there is a hidden story behind this rant, you are right. When I was 16, I had no direction. I chose my A-level college on the basis that was where my friends were going, I chose most of my subjects on the same basis, with the exception of art, in with my maths, physics and more maths. I still had no direction two years later, when I left with a B, a D and an E (the E was in art). I even cancelled my application to university and took on a job at the local factory.
Six years of assorted work later, I had built up considerable interest in photography, and started a degree in the subject, going on to achieve a 1st class honours and a very fulfilling time.
Looking back, it was very good that I did not go straight to university as most people do (gap years are not enough, in my opinion), as I would have simply wasted three years.
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This page last updated in August 2001