Education is not about certificates

I watched the news yesterday as thousands of our young people received their A Level results. There was the usual scenes of euphoria for those who had achieved or surpassed the grades that they needed to get to University. There was the disappointment by those who had not. The background picture showed three A Level students jumping up in the air with sheer joy and probably relief.

They then interviewed one young man who said that he was not intending to go to university. He stated the following: “education is not about certificates it is about learning… I intend to go out into the world and learn about life!”

This struck a chord with me about just what we in the education industry are all about. At this time of year we seem to be a part of the never-ending production line of certificate giving. There are the joyous possessors of  pieces of paper that tell them that they have achieved a certain grade in an examination or test and that,according to society they are now ready to progress to the next phase of study.

But what have they learned? Is there much of the words and figures that they have put onto numerous pieces of paper in large (or small) classrooms or halls going to give them the ability to cope with the ever-changing world that they will be coming out into?

When yesterday’s A Level pupils become tomorrow’s University undergraduates will they be learning things that will equip them for life in the global village?

I recently read about “The Seven Essential Skills That Students Will Need in the 21st Century” by Dr Tony Wagner of Harvard. These are:

1. Problem-solving and critical thinking;
2. Collaboration across networks and leading by influence;
3. Agility and adaptability;
4. Initiative and entrepreneurship;
5. Effective written and oral communication;
6. Accessing and analyzing information; and
7. Curiosity and imagination.

I just wonder how many of those who were celebrating yesterday have these skills… indeed have they een given the chance to develop them?

I feel the young man who said that he was spurning going to university in order to learn about the world had an important point. In attempting to go out into the world of work (if he is lucky in these difficult times) he may be able to learn and develop the essential skills that Wagner has written about and that may fit him much better to develop his life as a citizen in the 21st century.

This is not meant to belittle the achievements of those students who gained their A Level results yesterday. I am well aware of the hard work that they put into getting them. But I feel it is not their fault if the system does not give them the chance to develop the key skills that they will need in order to cope with life in the world we now live in. On top of this many of them will be leaving  university with a massive debt that will take many years to pay back.

We need to rethink how we educate our children and what skills they will really need as they progress to higher education.  The universities need to think of just what skills they are developing in their students and both secondary and higher education needs to beware the paper chase!




4 thoughts on “Education is not about certificates

  1. Spot on, Malcolm. It is true that education is not about how many As can a person score during his school years nor the number of certificates he has lying somewhere in a trunk up in an attic. Besides, having many As and certificates does not always mean one will be successful in the world after high school.

  2. Unfortunately, the only reason to engage is some education is a certificate. If I wanted to learn something, I would hit the Internet. I would not go to a school. At some point, schools are only good for certificates that are necessary for certain jobs. Now that you can learn anything, anytime, almost anywhere, why submit to a system that forces people to learn the same thing and the same time in the same place at the same pace. To bad. Keep up the good work. @DrDougGreen

  3. Admiring the persistence you put into your site and in depth information you present. It’s great to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same unwanted rehashed material. Wonderful read! I’ve saved your site and I’m adding your RSS feeds to my Google account.

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