Future generations

Education always used to be a process of investment in future generations. Today it is a business with those future generations paying the price for the privilege. Traditionally, the working generations have paid their taxes to provide education to the younger generations, putting back what they benefited from when they were younger. Now those younger generations have to pay from their futures.

Education is intended to prepare young people for their lives ahead, ensuring they are equipped with the skills required to contribute to a successful and prosperous society. Sadly, these young people are not being prepared as they should and too often they are finding themselves inadequately trained with the skills they need to make a full and successful contribution.

Much of this has resulted from the focus on academic results at the exclusion of so many other features of education that are often as important. Education should not just be a process for filling heads with facts. These facts are not the main tools that people need to enable them to make a positive contribution. What they need is the ability to think, to learn, to be open minded, to be creative, flexible and most of all, to be contributive. They need to be able to apply themselves to the task in hand, to work hard when it is necessary and develop their skills through learning and experience. So few of the specific facts we learn at school are of much relevance to anyone other than serial pub quiz teams.

An important part of the education process is to create ones place in the social order. Making your contribution and being an active part of a successful team or group. All this requires discipline and application, aspects of the current system that are missing. Some young people understand that and work to correct it themselves. They are the ones that succeed, but some without the guidance necessary, fail to make their contribution and that is bad for them and society.

We must be prepared to look at well-educated young people as our major assets and produce them and support them as necessary. Although some skills are inherent in some people, much of what we need in life is learned through experience and application and the more positive that experience can be, the better the lesson.

Our tertiary education system is the most challenged these days with many young people studying subjects with little or no relevance to the employment market and ending with skills and expertise of limited value to them. On top of this, they have staggering levels of debt to live with for so long in their working lives. Furthermore, because the university system is being run as a business rather than a social investment in future generations, we are educating so many foreign students, many of whom return to their home countries to apply what they have learned to compete with us in the world of commerce.

We as a society have to re-evaluate the whole purpose of education and returning to an approach that represents an investment in our young people. Meanwhile we need a young generation much more engaged with the political process to ensure they are heard and properly represented.

After all, the future belongs to them.

Religion in schools

The recent accounts of Islamic teaching in British schools has raised a more fundamental question of why we have any form of religious education in schools today?

Schools should have a duty to instruct children in facts and to ensure they are given the truth, and not the opinions and ideas of faith and belief that hold no basis in fact. Furthermore, schools should be giving a clear message of the values and society that we have and wish to perpetuate in this country. Religion should play no part in this and parents should use separate religious education to instruct their children if that is their choice. It should not be the duty of British schools to influence young people’s minds with religious dogma.

Teachers have a very important responsibility to ensure the information they give to children is based on the truth. Children cannot tell the difference when young between fact based instruction in regular subjects such as mathematics, English, science, history, geography, etc and the dissemination of religious ideas, doctrines and scriptures which often have little or no basis in fact and are generally designed specifically to get across a religious message.

Even worse is the infliction of religious practices on children when they are not capable of making the choices of their faith for themselves. They should be given the truth and allowed to grow up to make their own choices about their beliefs. It is not the role of schools to shape the religious inclinations of a generation and so all forms of religious practice should be removed from schools totally, whatever their background.

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