Last week, young people launched the #MakeEducationWork campaign on the back of new research that found our education system is failing to prepare young people for the world of work. This week, we delve a little deeper into what that research had to say about learning and livelihoods.
The school to work transition has been under scrutiny for some time. Report after report talks about the need for education systems to better equip young people for the jobs market. But in the latest report, By Us, For Us, we got to hear from young people all over the world directly about exactly what’s going wrong with the mismatch.
As one respondent from Bolivia pointed out: “The workplace rewards and promotes students not for how high they score grades in examinations, but how they use the classroom lessons to solve problems.”
Yet half of students only felt somewhat prepared for available work opportunities and as many as 40% believed that the failure of their education to align well with work opportunities was the biggest barrier they faced to employment.
The situation is worse for women, with just one in four feeling very well prepared for work demonstrating the clear inequality in the system. While the situation is bad in rural areas too, where educational institutions are failing to take into account the sorts of job opportunities available locally and unreliable internet connectivity makes access to good courses worse.
What young people demand, but feel that they are not getting, are the sorts of transferable skills that mean they could adapt well to any job or the entrepreneurial skills to be ready to set up their own business.
Nearly a third of young people felt that soft skills, like communication and networking, were the most important skills to achieve their aspirations. As many as a fifth of young people (21%) said they did not know where to find work opportunities or the right people to connect them to them. They want a more comprehensive curriculum to feature earlier in their educational journey and for it to include financial, entrepreneurial, professional and digital skills too.
Time and again young people were all too aware of the gap between how they were being taught and what they needed to learn. This is partly down to the training of teachers but also down the system that teachers find themselves within. As one respondent from the UK acknowledged: “Teachers don’t get to teach their personal areas of knowledge and interest. And thus, we can miss out on some of the best teaching.”
Finally, young people are still being shut out from high quality educational opportunities for financial reasons. Almost a quarter of young people (24%), described education as too expensive and there is an awareness that only the most privileged are able to afford good schools.
As one respondent from Ghana summed it up: “Good education is only affordable for rich people. Poor people study in poor schools and they can’t go to good universities and hence it affects their careers.”