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Our economy depends on sizeable education system changes

Far from giving schools a grade based on exam performance, the education system should have to show value by demonstrating student job success.
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It’s very easy to think that the future of our economy solely depends on politicians, analysts and city fat cats. But, in truth, it’s down to each and every one of us to make a contribution that can shape the country’s future.

And that includes every single school child sat behind their desks in classrooms up and down the country. Unfortunately, our education system continues to let kids down by not properly preparing them for life in modern employment.

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Business owners seem to be repeatedly banging their heads against a brick wall trying to close the gap between education and employment. While we appear to win the odd skirmish, such as the government’s commitment to creating three million apprenticeships, it is a war we are a long way from winning.

However, it appears we have a new ally – an enemy within if you will – in the form of Anthony Seldon from the University of Buckingham. He has delivered a very critical assessment of the way our education system teaches young people.

He says that, rather than preparing kids for the exciting and unpredictable 21st century, schools are, instead, preparing them for the last century, which had mass production jobs where workers had little need to think creatively.

If that’s not hitting the nail on the head I don’t know what is?

It’s not often I agree with academics, let alone one who is a university vice-chancellor, but Seldon has a real point. Especially when he said: “In the coming years, Britain will need a million small enterprises to compete against the best minds in new businesses starting across the world.”

His view that children need to be exposed to entrepreneurship, engineering and computer science is spot on and one that needs to transform into a groundswell of opinion across both academia and business that encourages a seismic change in the way we teach future generations.

Of course, changing the curriculum is one thing, but it’s the culture of education that has to change and this is where I really stand shoulder to shoulder with Seldon.

He predicts that within ten years computers will replace many of the skills that young people are currently being taught. This will leave them with very few options when they leave school and the education system.

Therefore, to ensure that the skills taught have an end-game, in terms of preparing kids for employment, Seldon suggests that league tables for schools shouldn’t be measured on exam results, but, instead, on how many students go on to get jobs.

This would, as he quite rightly says, force the education system and schools into teaching entrepreneurship and more relevant employment skills. This includes moving the focus away from simply getting students through a job interview and preparing them for the real world of entrepreneurship.

I would hope that Seldon’s views can also be applied a little closer to home in the higher education system arena too. The gap between university and employment is also still too large and considerable reform needs to be made to a system full of worthless degrees and over-long courses.

That said, I whole heartedly support Seldon’s views of reforming schools and the way our kids are taught. Those with the power to shape education don’t listen to business enough, perhaps they will pay more attention to one of their own – our economy depends on it.

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About Author

Charlie Mullins

Charlie Mullins, also an OBE, is the archetypal entrepreneur – having started his business from scratch and then building it into a multi-million pound enterprise. From humble beginnings growing up on an estate in South London, he left school with no qualifications, but after a four-year plumbing apprenticeship he started his own firm, Pimlico Plumbers, which now generates a turnover in excess of £30m and boasts many well-known names among its many clients including Simon Cowell, Helen Mirren and Richard Branson. He has been a regular contributor on Real Business since 2011 and is particularly about apprenticships.

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