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Educational Turmoil

Opinion / January 23, 2014

The world of education is in turmoil once again. If we are not scrutinising exam results or introducing yet another initiative we are presented with investigations highlighting the morals of teachers, this time in independent schools.

The vast majority of us passed through the schooling system relatively unscathed. Whether we ultimately realised our full potential as adults will always remain a mystery no one can answer. Whilst secondary education prepares us for adult life and higher education is designed to help influences our careers, market forces and fate takes the primary lead in what really happens to us. Statistics show 80 per cent of us are in a job we dislike yet we suffer this fate somehow lacking the drive, initiative or opportunity to move on. It is debatable this is a sign of a poor education or the outcome of employment opportunities.

A high percentage of the top jobs go to those graduating with a first from the Ivy League universities with a further tranche from public school. But what are the real opportunities on offer to anyone graduating from the “new universities?” They have brilliance and potential yet many miss the fulfilment of this ability. Evidence that the government is led by a elite club is not a new phenomena but the exclusion of others presents the question of what might have been. I am reminded of the achievement of Sir Stafford Raffles who single handed founded and developed Singapore into an Asian powerhouse, yet was decried by the UK government. How many other entrepreneurs could have made a real difference to the UK economy given half the chance?

And this is the point of this piece. Educational is vital to form the essential building blocks for adult life. Certainly we need the brilliant research scientists to unearthed the unknown, but in equal measure we need entrepreneurs whose skill set and educational needs are totally different. An entrepreneur is an ideas man or woman often with little comprehension of how to run a business. They leave that to others. Sir Stamford Raffles credited with the formation of Singapore hardly set foot on Singapore. He was the creative force and ideas man whose presence  inspired others to complete the task. Sir Richard Branson is notorious for not knowing the difference between gross and net profit. Simon Woodroffe, the brains behind Yo Sushi! realised that for the business to thrive he had to let go and appoint a Managing Director who could actually run the business.

The arrival of the internet and especially Ecommerce opened the door for entrepreneurs. An idea can now be rapidly developed and the start-up costs are often minimal. But as 75 per cent of all new web sites fail within the first 18 months¬† a stalwart willing to learn from mistakes is an essential element in the DNA of an entrepreneur. But is this a subject that can be taught at school? “How to become an entrepreneur” would be attractive to the vast majority of students in secondary and further education. How many of us can say we do not use the internet or mobile phones daily if not by the hour and a few desperate ones – by the minute. Yet the internet is only a decade old. It has radically changed our way of life. Adapting the way companies operate has made fortunes for some and destroyed others. It is incredibly dynamic market and we need to support its on-going development with bright eyed entrepreneurs, else the opportunity will pass overseas.

The curriculum being offered at school needs to reflect this opportunity. Instead of arguing the toss over performance in English and maths we need a radical approach that reflects the future needs of the UK. As manufacturing moves relentlessly to the Far East our historic ability in design and ideas needs to exploited and our schooling programme adjusted accordingly. That way we will shape the UK for its future destiny, and maybe English and maths are not the essential building blocks we all thought them to be.


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