Thursday, April 21, 2011

Education - another run

Last year in November I defined myself being uneducated. When looking at the education section of a CV I have next to nothing to put down. A few half completed tertiary courses. A couple of individual papers in a course. A bunch of failed ones - where I didn't appreciate the value of the business papers having come straight out of school.

This issue came up again. Someone wanted to see my CV to see my qualifications. I've never before worked in Linux in a commercial context. So I'm not really qualified at all. I've played and dabbled and learnt all manner of things Linux for years. But then, this isn't guided study. It wasn't ordained by some institute overlord with the promise with a piece of paper at the end of it. It's never been used in any commercial context.

I've been helping a friend out with an assignment and given the ease at which I was able to do the code, I got to thinking about perhaps getting qualified. This is perhaps a touch misguided. For starters, it's not like I'd just be able to just do the assignments and exams and get the papers. No... there's an attendance requirement.

The other week we were talking about the impact of computers on handwriting. A friend was saying that with so many schools integrating computers closely into their curriculum, their handwriting is likely to suffer by the time they get to tertiary education. I can sympathise. Every time I came out of an exam I found my hand hurt something chronic. I'd sit there with an ice pack on it.

She also said it would be sad to lose people from the tertiary route over a simple thing like handwriting. She actually used me as an example - of someone who's tertiary education failed me.

I put this down to a lack of flexibility. And this same lack of flexibility can be seen in our attitudes to apprenticeships. If you go to a tertiary institute, you're considered educated. If you learn from the workplace, then you're experienced. But that experience is looked upon with some trepidation.

I find myself wondering - is it really about the qualifications at all? Does this not just reek of some sort of back room dealing to get students paying inordinate amounts to get a piece of paper? I mean, if people were able to train on the job, then why discourage apprenticeships? And if the idea is to make people work ready and acknowledge their skills, then shouldn't the level of entry, given highly skilled people wanting a qualification, be lower? Should qualifications be all that important in the first place? Personally I would take someone with a great attitude over a qualified person any day of the week. Skills can be learnt. There's no substitute for someone who's willing to learn and apply their skills in ways that add value.

Combine that with the way we do CV's (in order to make us as uninteresting as humanly possible), the power we give to the employers when recruiting (and thus not having any sort of idea what the job entails from a job ad) and the use of employment agencies, and it's a wonder that anyone ever finds a job that they like. It seems to be a formula for getting the worse possible relationship between employee and employer to me.

This doesn't make anyone happy. The workplace gets a bunch of people who, on paper, look like they could be suitable. The employee gets a rather confused situation where they're looking for work but aren't entirely sure what they're applying for and ultimately end up trusting an employment agency to put them into a box that the employment agency is happy with and let's face it - by the time they actually get work, they're so desperate for the work that they're not likely to turn it down. I still wonder about the few jobs that I've turned down in my past.

Anyway, enough of that.

We're nearing our 100th post. I thought this was it except that there a few drafts - things which Baillie or I have started and have never really completed. The only indication of how successful this blog has been I've got really is the number of hits (and the odd feeling I get when people quote back my own blog to me). At the time of writing, since September last year, there have been a total of 3,734 hits. I've been hanging out to see if I can beat last years high of 672 hits for the month of December. Unfortunately this hasn't happened yet though I hold high hopes for this month.

Anyway, I thought I should acknowledge what feels like a bit of an achievement. Given that this blog only appeared due to me feeling horribly frustrated by the news. I've since moved onto other complaints - politics, employment and my life in general. As well as some talk about the Manaiakalani project and OLPC. My volunteer activities (oh - it's prudent to note that officially I'm no longer a volunteer on Manaiakalani. I am now being paid - as soon as I fill in the paperwork which means a bit of a battle with the bank). And of course inviting Baillie to post on the blog rather than me just regurgitating conversations we'd had.

I guess we'll see how this blog goes in another (nearish) 100 posts...

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