The British state has been in charge of basic schooling for well over a century now. The grip upon the university sector has been tightening over this time period. This may not have been a good idea:
Andreas Schleicher, OECD's director of education and skills, said that while young people in England are increasingly entering the jobs market armed with a degree, many graduates remain unable to cope with even “basic” maths.
"Some people with degrees don't have the right skills - numeracy and literacy,” he said.
"You would label them as overqualified, but they may not be overskilled." Mr Schleicher went on: "I am not talking about somebody doing advanced mathematical analysis or reasoning, these are pretty basic numeracy skills.
"And you ask yourself a: how people could leave the school system with those skills, and b: then how can they make their way not only into, but even out of, higher education with a degree."
No, this isn’t about private schools and all that, the split in the British education system. Rather, we’ve a system in which the State has people in its educational clutches for 16 years and they leave unable to do sums. Yes, 16, because we start at 5, you’ll be 18 leaving school if you’re going on to university and then 3 years there.
From which we can draw one of two conclusions. The first being that, well, if after 16 years these people cannot do sums then they’re really not cut out for any form of academic education in the first place, are they? Meaning that the expansion of the universities wasn’t that good an idea, nor perhaps the raising of the school leaving age from 13 if we’re to be reactionary about it. Or, the only other alternative, if the raw talent is there but after 16 years the State can’t manage to foster or fertilise it then we’d better get some other education system pretty sharpish, hadn’t we?
Yes, sure, there are arguments in favour of the State provision of education. But all of them do rather rest upon the assumption that said State will possess at least a basic competence at the task to hand. Given the absence of any evidence to this effect all of those arguments do rather fail, don’t they?
A government insistence that education must be gained seems reasonable enough, possibly tax financing of it. But given that government seems to fail that very test of education being gained perhaps not direct provision of it. After all, vouchers for everyone might gain us university graduates who can do sums, an advance upon the current situation.