The Leaving Cert is a crazy system

I never liked the Leaving Cert as a system but you expect to get more conservative as you get older. Well, it never happened to me. The older I get the less I like the whole thing.

When I say Leaving Cert I mean the whole combined examination and points system. The Leaving Cert seems to have no educational merit in itself now, just a means to get into college.

As a veteran of the broader education system (eight years in national school, five years in secondary school and five years at third level) I’m becoming increasingly sceptical of the whole formal education system. I’ve reached the fairly radical conclusion that I might have been just as well off if I had never gone to school at all.

This seems a strange conclusion since income levels across society correlate broadly with educational achievement. And so they do.

The reason they do is that entry into many professions and careers is predicated on being able to get through the educational rat race. That’s how we get our doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc. Of course (and this is the point) it doesn’t mean they are any good.

Furthermore, qualification doesn’t mean that the qualified doctor, lawyer or teacher has any interest in their profession. Many are railroaded into it at a young age by eager parents and once on the road it is difficult to change. A huge number of people have left the professions they qualified in by the time they reached their mid-thirties.

This I know because I am actually an engineer. I used to spend my time examining the underside of printed circuit boards for dry joints and coming up with new ideas to improve the quality systems of a clock factory.

I spent five years in college doing engineering and I couldn’t care less if I never saw the inside of a factory again.

That cost me and the taxpayer a lot of money. But at least I finished. By all accounts the drop-out rates in colleges are spiralling.

So the Leaving Cert is a poor indicator of career choice. But surely the reality is that youth is the worst time to make life defining decisions. Wouldn’t 30 years of age be a better time?

The biggest problem is that entry into the various professions is controlled by the professions themselves. This is completely wrong.

Why, for example, do you need over 500 points to do medicine? The reason is that there is not enough places for the people who actually want to do medicine. Why not provide more places? Why not provide twice as many places? After all medicine has required over 500 points for as long as I can remember.

Providing more places would make good sense to us taxpayers. More doctors means more competition, means better value, means better services. The same goes for lawyers, and accountants, and so on.

But the fact is that these professions are more or less closed shops and they don’t want the great unwashed feeding in their trough. So the points are sky high and young people who get 499 points can go and swing for it, even though their hearts might be set on a career in medicine (and they might be a lot better suited to talking to patients than someone with an A1 in maths).

What has all that got to do with education? Bugger all, that’s what.

Finally, the majority of young people leave school not knowing how a car engine works, how to fix a washing machine, how to bake a loaf of bread, how to play a musical instrument, how to lodge a planning permission, how a cold front causes rain and a million other things that might actually be useful.

The Leaving Certificate? I’m sceptical, very sceptical.

As Well As That. . .

A great big child-minding service

My suspicion is that the education system is a just a gigantic child-minding service. I think we would still send our kids to school even if they didn’t teach them anything. Just as long as they kept the brats quiet.

Our economic system is led by the consumer. Consumers need money. Therefore the economic model can’t afford to have parents at home minding their kids. They wouldn’t be able to afford dishwashers, would they?

Of course they wouldn’t need dishwashers if they didn’t have to spend every spare minute working. And so it goes.

And now our schools are being sponsored by the local supermarket, so our kids will learn to be good little consumers earlier.