Leaders Of The Future? How Our Education System Affects Business In The UK

“We don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it. In fact, we’re educated out of it.” Sir Ken Robinson, speaking in 2007, argued that the world’s education systems to not value or even encourage individual creativity.

That is to say, that creativity comes in second place behind to ‘head-learning’ subjects like maths and literacy.

Exams not hard enough

More than 600,000 teenagers throughout the UK received results last week, and there is growing concern as the top level marks awarded at GCSE have fallen for the second year in a row. This follows changes to the education system after recommendations that the exams need to be harder.

Exams need to be harder because too many pupils are doing too well. The market is becoming saturated with well-qualified pupils, capable of progressing to the next stage. So, if there are too many high achievers, how can we measure the real value of our qualifications when we come to employ these young people?

The value of a qualification, and what it means for business

How far are the skill sets taught in schools, and examined at GCSE and A Level, designed to prepare students for real life? In their sixth Education and Skills Survey, conducted in February and March this year, CBI argued that education is essential for future economic growth.

The report stipulated that “Too many young people fall behind during the early and primary years and they never catch up.”

What does this mean for businesses?

With GCSE results falling for the second year in a row this year, further education institutions, and employers are faced with a narrower selection of high performers.

Not enough young people are leaving school with relevant skill sets

The CBI reported that 55% of employers think that young people are leaving school with less work experience than is desirable. 54% of employers are dissatisfied with school leavers’ possession of personal qualities such as self-management, and 35% were not happy with attitudes to work.

If young people currently in education reach the end of the process and are mostly unprepared for work in the real world, perhaps we should question the value of the skills taught at school and at university.

University or apprenticeship?

Much of the debate seems to be turning to whether it’s worth it for young people to go on to university. Since the 80’s, university has become synonymous with the ‘next step,’ supposedly leading to a higher earning potential, and increased employability.

In 2013, however, many young people are opting to continue their education while earning money, in the form of an apprenticeship, rather than go on to university. Advocates of apprenticeships argue university is not for everyone, and that it is possible to learn a trade without incurring enormous amounts of debt.

The two paths have traditionally provided entry to different types of jobs. But with companies such as Ernst and Young, Barclays, and BT offering places on apprentice schemes to school leavers, apprentices are arguably gaining ground on their graduate counterparts.

What should be the end result of education?

Perhaps the skill sets taught in schools should be more applicable to the job market from a younger age. Many pragmatists argue, for instance, that schools should offer courses in job hunting, and focus more on practical life skills.

Creativity in education

It is important to foster creativity in young people. They are, as the cliché rings, the leaders of the future. The entrepreneurs of tomorrow, running the show in twenty years’ time, and passing on all they’ve been taught to future generations.

Creativity is important. We cannot afford to be “educated out of it.” It benefits business, as well as individuals, if we can go on to produce better ideas tomorrow than we thought of today.

So, the GCSEs?

How can we be sure that our young people are getting the full benefit from their education? It is important to teach skills that will improve their employability, and give them a better chance to earn more money in the future.

But it is also important to encourage creativity, and individualism. The ultimate goal of education should not be 9-5. It is important to encourage young people to do something they enjoy for a living, that they are good at, not just something that is well-paid or prestigious.

We should take care that the value of our education does not rest just on the grades we achieved at school. The value of our education system rests in the cultivation of independent thinking in the entrepreneurs of tomorrow. This way, individuals, as well as UK business, will continue to thrive.

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