Is the role of education to make young people work ready or is to inspire their curiosity?


In this guest post, Claire Walsh asks about the real purpose of education . . .


In the last few weeks I’ve come across a number of articles, reports and discussions about the relationship between education and work.  Some, such as Lord Heseltine in his report  No stone unturned in pursuit of growth (October 2012) argue we must become much better at getting our young people work ready during their time in education. He states:

“To compete internationally, our education and skills system needs to be producing young people with the competencies, skills and attitudes that make them ready for work.”

Being from a corporate background with plenty of experience in recruitment I understand employers need for well-qualified, experienced and competent young people, but this move to make young people ‘employment ready’ during education left me with a deep sense of discomfort.

In the whitepaper Higher Education: Students at the Heart of the System (June 2011) a couple of quotes I found are:

 “The overall goal is higher education that is more responsive to student choice, that provides a better student experience and that helps improve social mobility.”


“The English higher education tradition has particularly stressed the autonomy and independence of both learners and institutions, more than some other national traditions”.

The second point is the one that resonated with me.  Is the role of education to make young people work ready or is to inspire their curiosity, help them develop problem solving and critical analytical skills which are independent?

Personally, I have forebodings about an education system whose primary purpose is to make everyone ready for work. I would prefer a system that stimulates and nurtures intellectual curiosity, develops confidence which allows young people to leave education and find their own path.  I would also argue that employers have a duty to train and provide ongoing development for young people.


Claire Walsh runs Learning Consultancy Partnership, a Brighton-based provider of leadership training, executive coaching and learning & development consultancy.



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