Education is treated poorly in Britain.
A bold opening statement, I know, but one I firmly believe in. I’d even go so far to say that we have education backwards in the UK, where people are taught how to pass grades, rather than taught how to survive in the real world.
The UK is 28th for Reading, 26th for Maths, 11th for Science. It’s not impressive reading for a country that has leaders that repeatedly insist that we’re the best in the World at everything. The future for the UKs education is stagnant at best.
This isn’t me ranting at our quality of teacher, which is sublime. They do one of the most stressful and important jobs in the world with salaries too small and budgets repeatedly slashed, under huge amounts of pressure. They deserve nothing but praise and affection for doing what is an unwinnable job.
But rather than bemoan how we’re neglecting our children by only teaching them enough to pass exams, the reason this is being written is because of how we, as a society, treat adult education. And the reading isn’t good.
In Britain you go to school until aged 16, and then college until you reach 18. At this point you can choose; either go into further education, at your own expense, and work toward a university degree, masters and doctorate. And if you don’t want to do that you can go into the job market where you quickly realised that no one taught you how to do a self assessment tax return or manage a budget, because those weren’t on an exam.
Imagine that you’ve left education, further or otherwise, and have been in the job market for 10 years. In order to progress your career forwards you go for a promotion but find you lack a qualification or your experience is light, and you’re stuck. Your education to this point hasn’t been good enough and you’re going to have to jump into the treacherous world that is adult education, and if you ask some people about it you may well get scoffed at.
But why is it treacherous? And why do people think that Adult Education is worthy of mocking?
Usually, those looking for adult learning are doing it to help them start a new career, or boost their job prospects. They are often desperate or in a hurry. These people are massively vulnerable from scam artists and charlatans. If you don’t go through the correct channels when searching for adult education courses, specifically online, you may well stumble onto a site offering degrees and diplomas for little effort and a few bob. The same goes for some real life tutor lead colleges, with offices and classrooms,only they will charge you much, much more for you unaccredited ‘diploma’. Always check that your course is registered with Ofqual, which you can do here.
They’re not only treacherous because of the risk of being conned, but also because, without thorough research, you may well end up on the wrong course, at a different level to what you need or that doesn’t give the you qualification from the correct governing body. You can find yourself doing a 4 month course, spending a good chunk of cash only to discover it was a total waste of time. Glorious.
But the most worrying thing about adult education in the UK is how it is perceived by society as a whole, and, more disastrously, by government. A growing number of people, both civilian a political, see adult education as an unnecessary, and something that’s worthy of culling.
When talking to people about adult learning, people have been known to say things like ‘Why didn’t you learn that at school?’, ‘you should have taken a course before you got a job’, or my favourite ‘what’s the point?’ There seems to be an attitude that you’re meant to leave university or college and be entirely ready for the world, with your plan set out in front of you, and you stick to it. Everything you’ve worked for since your were 5 is now ready for you, so go out and do it.
Except, that isn’t how real life works. No one has a full plan for themselves, and if you aren’t willing to keep learning and improving then you weren’t better as a person. And separate to this, you may find that you hate the career you’ve picked, and changing entire careers requires additional training.
It’s better to retrain and take time off to find a job and career you are happy in, that it is to stay at your current level of expertise and be massively unhappy.
You should never stop learning, whether it’s formal or informal, online or in a classroom, no one is a finished product at 18 or 21.