British grammar schools vs. technical and vocational education.

Yet again, the British political class is arguing about grammar schools. This row will “never be resolved, because it’s about competing values: the Right prizes opportunity above equality, and the Left vice versa”. But this is the wrong argument to be having in any case. The real problem with our education system is not too much or too little selection; it’s our failure to offer proper vocational training.

We’ve never invested in the technical schools that were promised back in the Butler Education Act of 1944, and which other northern European countries take for granted. This “failure to teach people how to make anything” is behind many of our society’s current problems. A consequent shortage of local skills has made us increasingly reliant on automation, and imported goods and labour, which, in turn, has contributed to depressed wages, the growth of regional inequalities and an alarming £32bn balance of payments deficit. Forget the argument about selection. The best thing we can do now to put our school system, and country, on a better path is to champion the cause of vocational education. Emma Duncan (The Week).

I heartily agree. I have great respect for technically trained Poles. The Polish man I know best can turn his hand to almost anything: plumbing, of course, electrics, woodworking, bricklaying, you name it. He knows the pros and cons of every approach to a problem, quietly gets on with a job, and does so with a smile and at a reasonable cost. He is a typical product of the technical schools of Poland, which teach everything tnoroughly, including client management. As far as I know he makes a good living and doexn’t have to advertise. We have quite enough university academics, but not enough qualified Americans or British people able to teach these and similar skills, even if we had the technical schools available. We lost the plot.

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