Thursday, 24 March 2016

A Little Learning

As the demon of Austerity stalks the land wherever he or she does their worst, if not then at least some light trimming, those who might or will be affected are moved to plead their cases.

Almost invariably they will claim that that the money they want to sustain or expand their activity will be good for economic growth, honest, look at the figures.

This bleeding heart is at the LSE where it is claimed that increasing the number of universities will do the trick.  It begs the obvious question that if the money was deployed elsewhere whether the growth increase might be greater or more sustained or benefit more people.

There is the other obvious point is if you corral more bodies into a sphere of activity that requires major outlays, public or private or both, high levels of staff ratio's and extensive buildings, takes people out of the job market or unemployment it is bound to have some financial and economic effect.

Whether this might be useful or not is another matter.  How far it can be called "investment" is another, for many it might well be a form of consumption if what they do is unrelated to what the broader economy requires.

When spending money on teachers is a question the Welsh are often to be found leading the way.  The nub of this is the proposed four years for the first degree and two years of teacher training.  That is six years in all.  Add on the gap year and it means that you only start real work at 25 or so.  There is a question here that if the time were more fully spent on study and concentrated is this needed?

Fifty years and more ago those in teacher training colleges and some specialised institutions might do only two or three years.  But they were intensive and with disciplines alien to modern students.  At their best they were of high standards and the teachers emerging were capable of doing the job with larger classes and fewer facilities.

Graduates had a year's course and some did not take them. The picture above is of the teachers who taught David Attenborough and Richard.  Almost all had just a first degree, most honours  They seemed to manage very well on just that in a demanding job where their pupils were expected to reach the highest standards.

As for other means of training and educating, those will military experience with its added disciplines and demands will recall just how much could be done in short periods to require people to meet high standards of performance in spheres that were demanding.

There is also the matter that in the digital world with all the new technology at our disposal why should it take almost twice as long to prepare adults to function in a classroom?  Is this more a comment on the way our society is now and the limited experience of life that most of our youngsters have?

The answer may not be to allow longer and longer for someone to become a teacher in forms of education that now spend less and less time on the central learning needed.

It may be that shorter, more demanding, intensive and practical work but with longer hours of study and greater disciplines might be better and cheaper.


  1. "There is also the matter that in the digital world with all the new technology at our disposal why should it take almost twice as long to prepare adults to function in a classroom?"

    The elephant in the classroom.

  2. "why should it take almost twice as long to prepare adults to function in a classroom?" - because teachers have to understand that everybody outside knows the teacher's job better than the teacher. You know the story about the man, the boy and the donkey? If you want to throw the fat into the fire, insist that the knowalls get together and write the schoolroom textbooks.

  3. We forget that jobs are a cost not a benefit so increasing them does not help the economy. It is productivity that does that. Proof is as we have become wealthier we are able to work less hours. The aim should be for there to be fewer in work but there be more and cheaper goods and services produced.

    For instance two or more income households should gradually be reduced to one then none. The last is possible when AI and technology arrives at the point it can do everything for us. Nothing to be afraid of. Well AI perhaps it may decide it does not need us "Terminator" fashion.