As a nation, is Australia over-educated?
Several decades ago the prime minister of the day Bob Hawke made a statement that Australia would become the ‘Clever Country’, this came with a strategy to have students stay at school supposedly to become further educated and to progress to university as a matter of passage.
When Hawke made that statement unemployment was an important issue on which the government would succeed or fail. It could not afford an increase in unemployment rate, and school leavers would cause a big increase. This was the underlying reason for the statement as jobs were just not available for school leavers, traditionally first level positions had basically disappeared.
There was a very good reason for the lack of employment opportunities. First level employment positions had been filled by the secondary income earners of families. This would normally be the mother of the same children who were being kept at school under government strategy. The requirement for a secondary income would become without doubt the single largest reasons stopping youth from obtaining employment.
There were apparently good reasons why a second income was required. Australia was also the ‘Lucky Country’ and could have everything it wanted — a new car, a new fridge, a new washing machine; new adult toys, a large house, a large mortgage and personal borrowings. Second-hand just would not do, it was the a start of the greed era that exists to this day.
The situation remains the same today. Secondary income earners fill the traditional school leaver positions whether that be the tea person, the bank teller, the shelf filler or the junior clerk, but have now become accepted as equally employed as primary income earners.
It was also the start of Australians separating from each other, becoming self-absorbed and to some degree isolated. The Australian mateship began to disappear; Australians became wary of their neighbours, friendships and that sense of community was on the wane. People had little time for others. Priorities changed.
Children suffered as a result not having a parent at home, being left to their own resources. This had consequences — more children on the street, a decline of discipline, an increase in crime, experimentation of substances, the list goes on.
Parents unable to admit their part in this decline looked to blame the government for not offering support, wanting more assistance. This evolved into greater payments of welfare for previously unknown things and of course the development of a new industry of child care where parents could obtain a ‘feel good factor’ without the responsibility.
This all came from the desire to become the ‘Clever Country’. We now have a generation of over-educated youth and young persons, without sufficient positions available they believe their qualifications dictate. This causes frustration resulting in experimentation and apathy.
Back in the day when school was for educating: reading, writing and arithmetic, combined with a fair dose of manners, respect and friendship within a Christian background and ample discipline of the cane or slipper, children turned out pretty well. Not being academically inclined was not a crime, children left school at 15 years to find their way in the world. Others stayed on to obtain education certificates then, if parents could afford it, look at the challenges of university.
Those who left at 15 had ample opportunity for employment, useful employment that was needed within the community. There was nothing wrong in being a labourer, street cleaner, dustman, council worker as every job had a purpose. A 15 years those with technical knowledge could apply for apprenticeships in manual professions with confidence without which our society could not go forward. Five-year apprenticeships with day school and evening school at technical college produced well rounded responsible tradesmen. Invariably an apprenticeship meant you stayed with the same firm on completion, the system worked and worked well with a fair degree of security.
Children who went to the next level of certification left school with a varied choice of employment available and filled clerical office or secondary professions positions or joined the services such as fire brigade, ambulance, nursing or the police force continuing further study at day release and evening classes.
The few children left to continue with further and higher school education went on to university filling the professional positions that awaited their graduation.
The system worked well, all situations were covered for a community to operate effectively, but since we were deemed to become the ‘Clever Country’ a cloud of confusion has reigned. Far too many of our children have continued to university at great cost to parents creating pressure on the family budget; causing break ups and dysfunctional families. There is no justification for so many students to attend university other than government survival.
Students graduated believing they would easily find their chosen employment or career having acquired a degree only to find doors shut and positions were not available. They of course had no experience, were not worldly wise and there was immense competition for each position. They were forced to find any job but in reality jobs were filled with people who had gained experience on the job and did not mind making tea. The vast number of young people now holding a degree has seriously eroded the value of a degree education.
The government always massages and cleanses the figures of unemployment to maintain credibility and avoid political annihilation and the end result does not indicate the true picture. Becoming the ‘Clever Country’ has caused serious problems to our way of life. Students who achieve high results and professions would have done so notwithstanding the Political strategy.
History shows that some of the greatest and wealthiest Australians left school at 14 years of age and made their way in the world by their wits and determination. Something that appears lacking in our over-educated young people today.
What sounded like a good idea at the time has come back to haunt us. Unemployment rates really have not varied that much therefore the statement made by Bob Hawke achieved only short-term political gain but left a legacy of over educated school leavers and students and changed our society forever.
Do you agree? Is Australia over-educated? Are student expectations unrealistic?
To write for Starts at 60 and potentially win a $20 voucher, send your articles to our Community Editor here.