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"Youth is wasted on the young" GB Shaw
For some time it has seemed daft to me that education is generally the preserve of those with too many other competing distractions to appreciate their good fortune. Namely infants, children, teenagers, adolescents, young adults.
The term "students" can evoke images of freeloading swarms of Celtic Cubs with too much time and not enough sense on their hands. Don't know what to do when you grow up? Screw it, throw darts at course application Forms and spend 3 or 4 years not needing to worry about it. Good times indeed. Things change drastically after a few years in the real world. Education becomes a privilege, not a right. Mature students are the most engaged, curious and appreciative of all. They understand the direct correlation of effort and reward. Especially in this new all-too-real world.
Bad decisions by individuals, the Government and the private sector, farcically unresolved Euro crises, vicious austerity, unemployment at 1980s levels - people have realized they need to reevaluate. And so, as a happy byproduct of unhappy events, many are returning to education, training, upskilling. A new chapter.
There are many options - some practical, some theoretical, some certs, some diplomas, some degrees, some full-time, some part-time. All courses are not made equal, and one-size-does-not-fit-all. But events such as the Springboard Roadshow that took place yesterday at The Convention Centre Dublin allow prospective students to take stock of their options and choose a course that allows them to maximize their potential.
And we as educators and trainers must be very focused on the needs of all students, younger or less young, if we are to help people help themselves (and ultimately our country and future generations) - as one of the organizers of Springboard said: “There is one question that people want to know – am I going to get a job out of this?".
Interesting question indeed - and it is one that we have been asking for a while now. While is it easy to announce 6,000 Free Training Places (which is, of course, good news, as long as you are a Minister of Education), the real question that should be asked is "How many people have been (re)employed as a result of this training". Interestingly, the government cannot give this information. But, hey, 6,000 new training places is a good soundbite!
And maybe in time, the biggest win of all would be a change in government policy that staggers mandatory education (in return for tax-breaks) throughout a person's lifespan - not just until the age of sixteen. Old dogs do learn new tricks.