A degree too far

7th July 2006 at 01:00
2+3=0. No, your eyes do not deceive you and it is not a typing error. Like you, I did not want to believe it. It just doesn't make sense. It has to be a mistake.

But, sadly, there is no mistake. The equation holds in at least one case that I can verify. I can but speculate on a more general application. 2 children + 3 degrees = 0 jobs.

Men are wanted in education, we are told. Really? I have a son with a first class degree, a distinction from his teacher training year and a successful probation year behind him - testified to by the best national test results in reading in his school and a proposal of marriage from a P5 girl desperate not to see him depart. And that's it. The session is over and so is the job.

Yes, he is very likely to pick up supply work in the new school year but how much is uncertain, and uncertainty of that kind is not calculated to entice men into a profession much in need of them.

I also have a daughter. She, too, has a first class degree and a postgraduate MSc in library and information studies. The course for the latter is offered at only two Scottish universities and is very generously funded by the Scottish Executive (full fees, plus subsistence allowance).

Strange that, since there have been next to no jobs at a professional level advertised in this field in Scotland in the last six months. The few that did appear have insisted on two or three years' experience in addition to formal qualifications. Applications for jobs at lower grades (Standard grades required), submitted in an attempt to gain experience, have in some cases not even been acknowledged.

As parents, both of whom have enjoyed successful careers in education, my wife and myself have regularly encouraged generations of youngsters to "stick in" and make the most of the educational opportunities available to them. We have looked to enlist the support of parents to encourage and sustain their children through their schooldays.

Yet, if our present experience is anything to go by, we have been doing these young people and their families a great disservice. Perhaps the message should be: forget all this education nonsense, get out and get a job as soon as you can; if you need qualifications, find a way to acquire them while in work; if you don't need them, you won't miss them and you will certainly have some money in your pocket.

David Nicolson

Bowfield Road

West Kilbride

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