Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Students, Education, Students, Education.......

There has been much in the news at the moment about students in the UK and their 'cost' of attending College then University.  I am not for or against any side, I have my own opinion which is set somewhere in the middle.

To begin with, we need to be clear, there is a huge difference between College and Uni and these should not be lumped together as if they can be argued side by side.  I will start with College.

In the UK, going to College or 'Further Education' was something that most students already had mapped out in their life path, it was never an option, it just happened.  Those students are the ones who were academically able to achieve at A Level in a range of theory based subjects.  Where it all started to unravel is with BTEC's.  I do not mean that in a negative way, but as more people were able to stay on at College, more and more saw it their right to stay on and thus felt it should be funded.

I will take small breather just to explain about BTEC's.  I am FOR BTEC's and in no way see them as a negative within education.  Parents, I feel, never had it explained to them properly, what a BTEC entailed.  I meet so many parents who say 'well my little boy can't do a BTEC, they are for the thick kids' this shocks me and this is the problem.  BTEC's were introduced so that more people could gain further qualifications.  These students included ones that are not great with theory based courses and exams such as A Levels but would be great with vocational practical based courses such as BTEC's.  This does not make them 'thick' in any way shape or form.  It means that everyone can further themselves and their future.
I could go on for ages about this but I need to get back to where I was!  In conclusion, you have to weigh the whole BTEC versus A Level argument on what it is your child wants to do.  Everyone is needed in society whether it be as a doctor or mechanic or artist or teacher, so the courses enable whoever to follow whatever path they want.

Back to the point......more and more students started to go to College and the government introduced EMA to help the poorest families.  I do not think EMA was a great idea.  Some students already get free travel depending on where they live, Colleges offer help with books and meals so there was no need to introduce EMA.  Going to College always was a life choice.  The government had not made it compulsory for students to stay in some sort of further education until they are 18; but the current year 9's at school have to stay on until they are 18.  This changed the ball game!  If they want the students to stay, then they should help them.  Free travel and food is what is needed.  The food  budgets could go to the colleges and they give out 'credit' cards with allowances on for food enabling every student to get a meal.  Travel passes to get to College could be rolled out.  These would negate the need for EMA and that money could be used towards those schemes.

What I am shocked with is parents saying 'oh my boy is an A grade student and we need that money to get him to college' or 'without EMA then my daughter will end up on job seekers' ; but no-one receives that help for travel to secondary school? Free meals yes, but travel?  Colleges are further away, which is why there should be help with travel.  The government need to see College as an extension from secondary school and thus the same rules should apply.  Child benefit could also be used, this is what it is for.

University.......well this is a totally different kettle of fish!  University is a life choice.  You choose to go to University, it is not compulsory.  Students rioting about the fees took the whole argument too far and dampened the real issue.  All people will remember are the minority who took it upon themselves to smash windows, throw things at policemen and generally make a nuisance.  The big issue here is the cap being removed from the fees.  That should never have happened.  I believe that students should pay something towards going to University but so should the government/tax payer.  These future workers will pay back into the economy via their jobs.  Without them, many jobs may not have enough skilled people to do them, which should not be an option.  We should be able to sustain ourselves as a country and feeding back into education is the way to do it.  Think of it as a huge circle of life.  The current students will be the ones washing you, caring for you, dispensing your medicines or operating on you in the future.  We need them to grow up as well adjusted humans who see life not as an easy ride but if they work hard, it will pay off. 

As the old saying goes, 'children are our future' and as I add, 'we should teach them about life even if that means at times it will be hard to get where you want to be.  It will make them stronger and more determined.'