Education Reform Sparks Debate on Youth Readiness for Work

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Which came first; the job shortage, or the shortage of the ‘right’ employees? Young Academic investigates…

Despite the temporary relief of the 2012 London Olympics, headlines have repeatedly lamented the youth unemployment situation in London and other major UK cities. IT remains one of the few sectors which have reported increasing vacancies, as companies advertise more UK IT jobs in spite of the general upsurge of unemployment among young people.

The Government has turned its attention to the possibility that the problem is in fact twofold; there are fewer job positions available but also students are not being adequately prepared to fill them. Public discussions are raging over the Government’s solution to improve education by scrapping the GCSE examination standard in preference for their own reforms.

Education Secretary Michael Gove announced: “It is time for the race to the bottom to end. . . It is time to tackle grade inflation and dumbing down. It is time to raise aspirations, restore rigour to our examinations and equip children for the 21st century.”

The replacement English Baccalaureate Certificates will be for traditional subjects, with other subjects being available yet will be given the same qualification. Opinions have been squarely divided on whether the reform is the right thing to do.

Former Conservative education secretary, Baron Baker; the architect of GCSEs, believes that the reform proposals don’t give enough value to work-based vocational qualifications, saying: “It’s vital that schools provide education which develops practical skills as well as subject knowledge. This has to include opportunities to learn by doing”.

With the opposite view; Neil Carberry, of the Confederation of British Industry, backs the reform, commenting: “The Government is right to focus on delivering rigorous assessment in our school system, which is part of raising achievement.”

On the face of it, this may seem that the Government is disregarding specialised subjects including IT. However when discussing the need for reform, Gove highlighted computing: “Imagine the dramatic change which could be possible in just a few years…instead of children bored out of their minds being taught how to use Word and Excel by bored teachers, we could have 11-year-olds able to write simple 2D computer animations using an MIT tool called Scratch. By 16, they could have an understanding of formal logic previously covered only in university courses and be writing their own apps for smartphones.”

Whether the method is considered right or wrong, the aim of the reform is to prepare students for the ‘real’ world, to educate everyone to an acceptable standard.

One thing the UK is learning from the success of the Olympics and the Paralympics is the recognition of the reward hard work and focus can achieve. Translating this accomplishment into a constant reality is something the Government and businesses alike are keen to trade on. The Games highlighted what Great Britain can do, in sport, as a country and in business.

The IT industry was an integral part of this triumph, with Cisco providing the network infrastructure for the Games and in the Olympic Park. Cisco is keen for this to continue to benefit the public. Not only with planning for the long term development , maintenance and management of the Olympic Park,  but to develop further centres of technical excellence.

Cisco’s aim to ultimately to help local businesses and communities with education and development, through their not-for-profit company in partnership with the Government as the Olympic Park Legacy Company. This is a perfect opportunity for not only providing Cisco jobs but to educate the public with what is achievable.

If the possibilities of technology are endless and business world is always evolving, we should at least prepare the next generation of employers and employees to be able to meet the challenge.

Image Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zeligdoc/4536877667/sizes/m/in/photostream/

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