We will never solve the problem of youth unemployment unless we face up to the brutal reality that 50% of the population has an academic IQ lower than 100. The simple fact is that many people are unsuited to the type of work they aspire to, or the modern world wants to give them.
Equally, I.Q is only one measure of intelligence – the ability to solve complex problems quickly. It takes no account of manual dexterity or the emotional skills that constitute what is now known as E.Q.
The facts above are known to most people, so why can we not create an education system that recognises and addresses them from an early age?
It is because our leaders only really value academic intelligence, ‘A’ levels and university degrees.
It has become politically difficult for our leaders to admit what we all know; that to focus happy, enthusiastic toddlers on learning things they are likely to struggle with leaves them demotivated, disillusioned, and unable to acquire skills that play to their strengths.
It is accepted that a child’s core traits are identifiable by the age of five. We should use this knowledge to establish the best general path for a child to follow, so all their natural energy and enthusiasm can be harnessed.
This statement will, sadly, produce howls of anguish from many well-intentioned commentators who believe that the 11-plus was a travesty, and have an antipathy to selection of any sort.
This view flies in the face of reality, and only gained credence because the alternative to schools for academically clever children were generally appalling – it was grammar school or be labelled a failure.
It doesn’t have to be like that.
A lot of children find reading, writing and arithmetic skills difficult to acquire. Some never grasp them fully, and semi-literacy is a reality for many.
It is difficult to function at all in the modern world without ‘the three Rs’ so those that are identified as likely to struggle need a lot of support and encouragement in small classes from the earliest possible age.
All other academic subjects such as history, sciences, and languages are a ‘nice to have’ but not essential.
Subjects, which are currently considered as adjuncts to the main curriculum – such as music, woodwork, entertainment, sport, and art – should be clear mainstream options for those that have the enthusiasm and aptitude for them. Developing their core skills from a very early age will enable young people to lead useful, worthwhile, and economically productive lives.
Intellectual and manual dexterity are distinct and equally valuable skills. The final category – emotional dexterity, is more difficult to identify, but equally as important.
In an age where family carers for the old, the sick and the disabled are not automatically available, there is a substantial human market for those with natural empathy for their fellow humans.
It may be stating the obvious, but not everybody has this. Caring for others is a vocation where the required skills are evident from an early age. For example, nurses with degrees are sub optimum (although some might go further!) unless they have that special love that can only be satisfied by caring for others.
If one agrees with this premise it will be obvious that very different educational establishments are required to develop and hone these core skills as adulthood approaches, and the world of work beckons.
Even then, continuing professional development in a fast changing world will be essential. There is no reason why, as adults, we should not return to our alma mater to hone our skills, or acquire new knowledge, that makes us better at our jobs.
This is not to say that those developing advanced physical skills should not have exposure to Shakespeare, Napoleon, Wordsworth or even Nietzsche – or an academic mathematician should not be broadly exposed to art, theatre, or metalwork – but it would not be their main focus.
The business of education is serious, and its object is to prepare us for a useful, fulfilled life where we can support ourselves independent of the state.
While to dream and to hope are wonderful emotions that may uplift us, if we over-indulge them and do not concentrate on the reality of the here and now, most of us are doomed to unhappiness and frustration.
This is the problem with the X-Factor and the National Lottery – they dangle something in front of young people that 99.99% of them will never be able to have.
The Need for Flexibility
The one flaw in this process is that humans are not 100% predictable, so an element of flexibility is essential.
A child in the academic mainstream must be able to switch their focus at certain points, and vice versa. Energy, drive and enthusiasm are all key components of success in any field, and to be stuck unwillingly, on one track forever could be an Orwellian hell. This flexibility at the edges does not detract from the core requirement to get round pegs into round holes.
In summary, the answer to youth unemployment is to focus on a child’s core skills from an early age.
Hone those skills through a targeted education system; so that at age 16, 18, or 23, we have the best builders, teachers, plumbers, mathematicians, thinkers, artists, musicians, engineers, care-workers, nurses, doctors, naturists, soldiers, and entertainers in the world, and the happiest, most fulfilled population.
Those that have acquired what is sometimes called ‘domain knowledge’ will be very employable, and able to compete with workers on every part of the world stage.
The cost of such an education system will be high, but it will pay for itself many times over through an increased tax yield, foreign companies fighting to set up subsidiaries in the U.K, fewer people on benefits, and a society with better health and less crime.
This is very simple, but our politicians must see people as they really are and stop passing them through filters of their own theoretical dogma if it is to work.