I’VE been suffering nostalgic flashbacks again this month – this time when I see pictures of all those young people celebrating or commiserating over their A Level and GCSE results.
My own results at sixth-form stage were a bit of a personal disaster – I needed 3Cs in history, physics and chemistry (don’t ask!) to study politics at Essex University but ended up with 3Ds.
I can still remember the hollow feeling when I picked up my results from school. My pals had all got what they needed for uni, so I felt a tad excluded.
But the clearing system was great as fars as I was concerned and I ended up doing a three year BA degree in Public Administration at Leicester Polytechnic (now known as De Montfort University).
Public administration formed a part of the later qualification I would need if I became a journalist.
But the fact I got a degree – and the right to put BA after my name – didn’t matter much to my future career. I still had to prove I had the wherewithal to do a reporter’s job.
That was essentially by working for nothing until I was lucky enough to get the chance of going for a vacancy.
I am aware that I am almost saying that qualifications don’t matter. That is patently not the case when it comes to many jobs.
But when I hear bosses organisation the CBI call for anyone who got good grades in science at age 14 to be automatically enrolled onto triple science at GCSE I feel somewhat uneasy.
The CBI insists that as the economy gears up for growth, businesses will require employees with science degrees. More than 40 per cent of companies say they are having difficulty recruiting people with science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills.
Katja Hall, CBI chief policy director, said: “As the economy rebalances, we will need more highly-skilled employees, particularly for young people with STEM degrees, but businesses are struggling to recruit good graduates from the UK.
“At the moment only 18 per cent of young people study physics and chemistry as separate GCSEs compared with 26 per cent who study religious studies and 19 per cent who study physical education.”
The thought of channelling young people into a sausage factory of education and then career is something I find quite unnerving.
I was reasonably good at science at O Level (yes, I am that old) but not so good at A Level. While I enjoy watching documentaries about chaos theory and quantum mechanics, I can’t imagine myself actually understanding any of it! Or, more to the point, actually trying to make a living out of it.
The point of education, according to the ancient Greeks, was to “bring up” and to “lead forward”. Not to become units of production, automatons for capitalism.
If our society needs more scientists, engineers and mathematicians, then it is up to the present generation to inspire those who follow to make free choices to travel down those particular paths.
Persuading and inspiring young people is a much tougher task for society than the CBI’s almost Stalinist suggestion of automatically channelling young people down a particular employment road.
For that we need inspiring and well-paid teachers in fantastic schools, visible role models and parents who take more than a passing interest in what their children do from 9am until 3.30pm every day.