As the academic year comes to an end, the world’s students are busy cramming for exams. Are you planning to go to university, technical college or some other route to employment? At this time, I urge all students to work hard and prepare properly for your exams.
For certain people, further education is the best way forward, especially if you are going into a professional environment where you need those qualifications. For others, it provides a chance to become fluent in English, fly the nest and find some independence away from the prying eyes of parents. Whatever the motive, university gives students a chance to develop emotionally and intellectually while enhancing their education.
Every year the university vs technical college debate is reopened. Preparing for university starts early and most sixteen year olds are currently busy choosing their options for A-Levels or equivalents. If you are looking to study in the United Kingdom and want to attend Oxford or Cambridge, then I recommend you check out Collyer’s Sixth Form College. Their prospectus gives full details of how they can prepare you for life at Oxbridge.
But I am also reminded of a quote from Richard Branson, “You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.” Richard helps us understand that formal education doesn’t necessarily play any part in being a business success. It is interesting to see other successful people like Albert Einstein, Jim Carrey and Oprah Winfrey, who had challenging childhoods which in turn created drive, passion and the desire to succeed. Falling down is a normal part of learning and picking oneself up is one of the strongest attributes to actually being successful.
Labelling people as intelligent or “not”, depending on whether they go to university, is a big problem in the modern age. You do need to be intelligent to build a successful business empire like Virgin but being intelligent doesn’t mean you have to go to university. Students may enter into vocational training or an entrepreneurial environment. For some people that might be a much better education than spending five years on further education.
Recent research shows that more than a third of employers, including large firms, expect to expand their recruitment of school leavers and apprentices with A-levels. The simple truth is that school leavers are more educated than ever before. Just compare the current math curriculum to that of thirty years ago. Children are exposed to much more difficult concepts a lot earlier with every generation.
With more employers looking to hire at 18, often through innovative on the job training schemes, it is important that teachers listen to business leaders. Our educational institutions need to work with businesses and governments too. Together we must help to ensure that exam reforms prepare young people for a working life which allows for flexibility as much as specialization.
I make this point because career change statistics suggest that the average person will be making a career change between five and seven times during their working life. Countries go in and out of recession and there is an ever increasing number of different career choices on offer. Incredibly about one third of the total workforce currently change their job every twelve months.
Parents continue to fund their children’s sixth form education and thus help to raise the leaving age closer to 18 and 21. This puts even more pressure on us to develop high quality options for those who do not choose the A-level to university route.
We need to urgently address this debate by developing simple and effective structures for vocational study. We must learn from the good examples offered by Technical Colleges and give more options to young people. We must also think about reinventing the family run business model by moving it online.
So please study hard and prepare for your exams seriously but also remember that this is just the beginning of an amazing journey. It is important to choose subjects that inspire you to become a flexible worker over the coming decades. As Richard Branson said, “If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!”
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