Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Higher Education, New Labour Style

Vocational training and qualifications for those who really don't want to do more academic study after 16? Yep - a fine idea. Since the wages councils and proper apprenticeships were destroyed by previous governments the young people of this country have become more and more disillusioned by false promises of "the future".

I'm sure everyone will agree that not every young person either wants to go to sixth form for A levels, nor yet is every young person suited to such things. So why is almost every young person practically forced into this pointless exercise? Because there's precious little else for them to do.

With no real apprenticeships anymore; skilled trades having been killed off in the pursuit of a "service" economy, these adolescents drift into a supposedly non-compulsory part of schooling to kill two years before they can find any work worthy of the name.

Now Mr Brown and his bright-sparks have come up with the solution. Allow market leading companies to award "A level equivalent" qualifications. Which companies have been chosen for this high profile educational role? Step forward the wonderful MacDonald's, Flybe and Network Rail.The worrying thing is that these are commercial operations. Leave alone the many arguments that MacDonald's can be viewed as an exploitative, rapacious factory of evil and that Flybe (and all its ilk) can be thought of as a model of shoddy service, discomfort and is environmentally disastrous. Leave alone that Network Rail is largely (and fairly?) considered incapable of doing anything in the time or to the budget agreed and helps to make life a misery for millions of rail passengers every day.

No - these are "A level equivalents" that will, by their very nature, be tainted with commercial interest. If you're studying for advanced burger flipping at the BigMac institute of further education do you think you'll be awarded a pass if you challenge the company ethos? Will the tutor be delighted to debate the company's destruction of rain forest to feed America's fat gits? Will the student be acknowledged to have a valid point if he argues in an essay that MacDonald's food is simply fatty pap that should be flushed straight down the loo to cut out the middle man? (Copyright Ben Elton, back when he was still funny).

One of the very essences of further (and even more so with higher) education is that the student argues a case and is rewarded for a good argument, regardless of the educational establishment's viewpoint. Can you imagine this happening within a commercial organisation? No, neither can I.
This sort of policy would have been a step too far even for Obergruppenfuhrer Thatcher and here we have a Labour government sucking up to the biggest of businesses, two of which are notoriously anti-union
and actively prevent staff from representing themselves in the quest for a fairer deal. These are the companies that will be training the next generation of managers and workers. Honestly, it makes me want to weep. What on earth is the government thinking of? Whatever it is. it's not the good of either the country or the young people who live in it
Watch out for the lucrative directorships and professorial roles for ex-ministers (and prime ministers) in the Network-MacDonald's-Flybe University. Cynical? Moi?

1 comment:

dong said...

I fly Flybe two or three times a year but I will give it up if Alex signs up as a pilot's apprentice!