The UN’s latest report on skills, 10th Education for All Global Monitoring Report, highlights the need to find alternative routes to educating young people.
Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO, said at the launch: “We are witnessing a young generation frustrated by the chronic mismatch between skills and work. The best answer to the economic downturn and youth unemployment is to ensure that young people acquire the basic skills and relevant training they need to enter the world of work with confidence. Many, and young women in particular, need to be offered alternative pathways for an education, so that they can gain the skills needed to earn a living, live in dignity and contribute to their communities and societies.”
The report questions whether the $3.1bn of aid money that is spent on funding students to gain post secondary education abroad, could be better spent tackling the skills deficit in poorer countries. Their example: the money spent supporting one Nepalese student to study for a degree in a developed country could give 229 students a secondary education at home. In a time of limited resources, difficult decisions have to be made, and this is a graphic example. Highly educated people are needed in Nepal, but there is a need for an assessment of the alternative ways to use the resource.
It is not just the developing world, as a recent OECD report estimated the 160 million people in developed nations do not have sufficient literacy skills to apply for a job or read a newspaper.
In terms of new approaches to learning, perhaps the classroom biased, academic approach is not ideal for many people. Archomai are promoting the use of a combination of functional literacy programmes with the use of practical training tools such as simulators as one way to meet Irina Bokova’s challenge. Giving people the confidence that they can drive a truck safely; they can operate a crane; they can build a wall; could be the start of building confidence to learn more.
If we can give young people, in all countries, the confidence that they can achieve – and that there are good practical reasons for being able to read, write and add up – then they will find a way to earn a living, and a way to learn the literacy and numeracy skills as well.
Interestingly, the work Archomai have done with NEETS (not in education, employment or training) in the UK, shows that women are at least the equal of men when it comes to the ability to operate cranes and excavators.
In difficult times, innovation is needed. Frequently, salami slicing is not the correct way to reduce the costs. Sometimes, it is spending money in different ways, not always the cheapest way, that creates the drive to succeed.