Posted on 2 April 2019
By John Hillier.
In the nearly 20 years I have been involved with CET, first as a Trustee and later as an Advisor I have often asked myself “why do I bother?”
Apart from personal considerations, mainly that everyone I have worked with at CET has been congenial, expert in their field and willing to learn – and in a career spanning nearly 60 years, this is the first organisation I have worked in where I can say that – it’s mainly because of a deep unease about our Education System.
I’m uneasy because I don’t think it does its job properly at any level – primary school doesn’t prepare people well enough for secondary education, secondary education doesn’t prepare people well enough for work, apprenticeship or university and university doesn’t prepare people well enough for life and work.
There are of course exceptions – but all too often people are succeeding despite the system not because of it.
Remember I am talking about the system, not the dedicated and hardworking people who work in it – most of whom know as well as I do what is wrong but are powerless to do anything about it.
So why is it like this? Politicians mainly. The Education department has always been a revolving door for ministers, but sadly those who have hung around have usually done more harm than good. From the expansion of university places (based on very dodgy economic evidence about how degrees enhance earnings) to the persistent myth that good education means polite and deferential children sitting in rows writing down what the teacher says, memorising it and regurgitating in in written exams, they have a lot to answer for!
Economists must take some of the blame too. We are bombarded with statistics about the relationship between various parts of education and earnings, as if that were all that matters. We are encouraging parents and young people to believe that education is a purely instrumental thing designed to help you make money when we all know it should be so much more.
But we are all responsible – as parents for not demanding better from politicians and educators, as employers for not getting involved enough in education to ensure it prepares people for work as well as all the other things it should be doing, and as individuals at all ages for not making clear what we expect from education and insisting we get it.
CET believes in taking a measured, evidence led approach to all these issues – especially the relationships between education and work – and working with others to change the system. This a massive undertaking and we need all the help we can get!
John Hillier is Senior Advisor to CET.