Calm Before the Storm As Students Complete Educational Exams

Opinion / May 29, 2014

As students enter that delightful but short-lived period of exam relief how many students have mixed emotions? Did they perform well; give their best, glad that finally it is all over! Buried amongst the range of emotions is one that should be shouted by all students from the rooftops. Did I receive the best education I deserve?

The educational journey is around 10 years long, from primary to GCSE at secondary level, 15 years if you add “A” levels and a degree. During this formative era of a young persons life there can be massive changes in the economy, society, commerce and technology. Diseases can be eradicated and new ones emerge. It is possible to endure three completely different government manifestos and personalities. The last 15 years has seen the shape, size and fortunes of the European Economic Community evolve dramatically. Equally the recriminations over its size and wasteful spending overshadow much of the work achieved. We are lost in a maelstrom of good and bad PR over the EU. Possibly no one living has the true measure of the complexity of the organisation. As our ex students enter employment they will now need to operate within the endless laws and boundaries developed by the EU whilst they’ve been at school.

The political landscape has evolved. Educational budgets have waxed and waned. Money earmarked to support a brave new world of educational initiatives has been spent, wasted, withdrawn or absorbed by other superseding initiatives. Currently budgets for  maths teaching resources are to be  “stolen” by primary schools to pay for the free infant school meals programme.

Whilst we can applaud the free school meals initiative, aimed at providing nourishment to improve the attention and attainment in infant school, the champion driving the initiative in the government looks extremely unlikely to survive the 2015 general election. This leaves the possibility the initiative, like so many of its predecessors, will be consigned to the history books.

The average tenure of an educational secretary is 18 months. Michael Gove is the exception with four years under his belt, and before that three years as opposition “Education Secretary”. Instead of instigating a strategic approach based on this experience his tenure is beset with whims and U-turns. The rank and file of Headteachers and teaching staff are loggerheads with the Department For Education. Edicts remain unopened and sit forlornly on the school office shelves awaiting their inevitable replacement. E-mails from the educational secretary remain unopened in the inbox. This standoff is not just a fight between doctrine and pedagogy it results in devastating collateral damage to students passing through the system.

The ultimate measure of the success of the educational system is the suitability of students and graduates in employment. After years of despondency during the recession when graduates struggled to find fitting employment, topical feedback reveals employers are now struggling to find graduates of the right calibre.

This must be a flaw in the suitability of an educational system that fails to match a students’ ability with the needs of employment. A lamentable situation that requires prompt redress if we are to produce employees able to support the UK in world markets. The key issue is where within a government’s transitory structure lies a strategist able to design a system that can have the desired outcome at the end of a gestation period of 15 years.

Recent criticism from employer’s HR departments who bemoan the poor quality of graduate applications is rather hypocritical. Many employers complain application forms contain mistakes caused by inadvertent cut-and-paste that includes a previous company name. Do they think they are the only employer the candidate has applied to?  Yet most HR departments fail to acknowledge candidates who have invested possibly three hours completing unique application forms. At best the candidate may receive advice of the status of application by text or e-mail or the ultimate crass cop out – “if you have not heard from us within six weeks you can assume your applications been unsuccessful”. Both parties are guilty of slipping standards but is this indicative of poor preparation and a lack of understanding in the work ethic due to a gap in their education.

Change is here to stay, so says the maxim, but we must also identify the next generation educational programme that is fit for purpose allowing students to emerge in 2030, after 15 years, with an education they can be proud of. The real problem is commiserating with those students who emerge in the meantime who spot the flaw in the present system.

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