I can’t blame young people from turning away from further education | Deborah Orr

Five years of sixth-form and university might well seem an expensive and risky prospect to many 16-year-olds

There has been yet more awful news about the adult world of employment that the young people of this country are now expected to contend with.

First, the number of 16- to 18-year-olds staying on at school has dropped for the first time in a decade. This is put down to the withdrawal of education maintenance allowance and the hike in tuition fees.

Second, the number of graduates doing “menial” jobs unconnected with their qualifications has doubled in the past five years. I’m afraid I find myself thinking that a lot of young people simply might not see the point in staying on at school, then going to college, if at the end of it they’ll still end up with exactly the sort of job that they could have applied for five years previously.

Certainly, it’s preferable for young people to be at school or college than on the dole, simply because education has its own inherent value. But the temper of the political times tends not to emphasise self-improvement for its own sake (as does the price tag put on it). Instead, it touts education as a surefire route to career success, when this is by no means necessarily true. The huge expansion of higher education, presented as a widening of opportunity, instead is developing into an expensive and risky final hurdle that some young people decide, quite sensibly, looks terribly daunting.

Deborah Orr

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