Monday, January 15, 2007

Raising school-leaving age to 18

For all the reasons which Peter Black gives in the regional campaign pages, a Welsh Assembly Government should not rush to follow Westminster. Alan Johnson, the English education minister, says he is very impressed by the moves made by the Canadian province of Ontario.

England itself would be well advised to wait to see how the Canadian experiment works out, bearing in mind that the legislation is not even passed yet. Legislators may bear in mind that, though the high-school drop-out rate has fallen in the early years of this century, it is still nearly ten per cent in Ontario.

It takes a special kind of teacher to keep the interest of youngsters who do not want to be in school and who are old enough to know of more exciting alternatives. There is no sign that Westminster is prepared to boost the education budget in order to recruit and retain such teachers. Johnson's intention is to raid the fund for life-long learning - surely insufficient for the purpose, and denying people who really do want to improve themselves the chance to do so.

There are one or two places in the world where compulsory education does stop at 18. In a German Land (province) where this is the case, high-class vocational training is provided as an alternative to the school-room.

Thirteen years is too long to keep children in school. Why don't we follow the example of Finland (which I believe Wales Assembly Government people have been looking at) and provide a minimum of ten years formal education, but starting at age six or seven?

- Frank Little
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