"Drop out and get a trade!" says the prime minister of Australia, one Mr John Howard. Our PM believes that more teenagers should be considering dropping out of school in year 10 to pursue a trade, rather than staying on another two years to complete their senior schooling. This comment was made in response to a recent report outlining the declining number of skilled tradespeople in the Australian workforce.
In coming to this just brilliant conclusion of trying to take even more education opportunities from the youth of Australia (Howard's views on the running of universities are for another time), there are some things little Johnny said that I do agree with:
[From the ABC news website, http://abc.net.au]
JH: "We went through a generation in this country where parents discouraged their children from going into trades. They said to them, 'the only way you will get ahead in life is to stay at school until year 12, go to university'. High year 12 retention rates became the goal, instead of us as a nation recognizing there are some people who shouldn't go to university and what they should do is at year 10, decide they are going to become a tradesman."
I must say I agree with most of this. Many parents probably believed (falsely) that going to uni was the only way to get ahead in life, and may have forced these beliefs onto their children. Also, there are people who shouldn't go to university. Actually, "shouldn't" is not the right word. It's not that such people don't deserve to go or are not the right people who should be there. Rather, university is just not their thing and they probably don't want to go anyway.
Now if someone recognizes when they are in year 10 that uni just isn't for them, and want to become a tradesman then that's great. (I wanted to be an accountant at the start of yr 10, but a subject on business principles helped me over that problem!)
But why do they have to leave school then and there to do it? Is it so wrong to want to complete your education, even if you're not going to go on and do some more at university? There are many reasons why I don't agree with leaving in yr 10 to go get a trade, and not all of them are based on pure academic pursuits.
Firstly, I can see no problems with any "tradies" who have a good education (in the traditional sense). Things we learn in school are not just facts and figures, but ways of thinking, problem solving and communicating with others. Skills that apply in all aspects of life.
Being someone who lives to learn, I think giving up on two years of education is such a waste, especially when making the decision at age 16 - no the most rational time of life for anyone!
As you may have noticed technology has advanced over the past decades. Do you think trades such as carpentry, roofing, plumbing etc have not? With such advancement you may think that doing a trade may require a better educational background than in the past?
Now it's time to reminisce. My senior year in high school was one of the best of my life. Full of hard work and stress, but lots of good mates and good times. Teachers treated you less like children and more like equals, adults and in some cases, friends. You were eased into responsibility, while still getting the chance to act young and make mistakes. Oh yeah, and party ridiculously hard, with a like-new liver, ready to take on all challengers!
The real-world outside of school can be rough and the support and help on offer in schools - from teachers and the like, but more importantly from your mates, who are there everyday - doesn't exist. In many cases, you're on your own.
There are many things you learn in the last two years of high school that are not taught in textbooks. After yr10, teachers start to give you a little respect, and the chance to earn more. You're eased into the responsibilities the freedom after school provides, rather than being thrown into the deep end. I have known friends who left school early because they couldn't handle the teachers "picking on them" or all the rules stifling them. Suddenly having all the responsibility for their lives upon themselves didn't work out real well them. Some are only now, much later getting their lives back on track. Others were not so lucky...
Getting a head start on a trade in the real world at only 16 may be the worst mistake you could make.
Again, the parties in my senior year were some of the best I've ever been too, and the people I met have stayed friends for the rest of my life. There's a lot you learn outside of school during those years as well. An education that can only leave you better equipped for life.
Having a girlfriend who is a high school teacher means I have an inside of schooling (and a lot of opinions on the topic). Many schools offer vocational training for students during their senior years, including practical components. Increasing vocational education opportunities at schools and beyond seems a much better solution than telling kids to quit school.
C'mon little John, you want to take away university education, at least let us finish high school!