Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Education, education, education: Nanny knows best

There are those here in the UK who think we don't take compulsory education far enough. They propose increasing the school leaving age from 16 to 18:

According to an article on BBC News,
Steve Sinnott, leader of the National Union of Teachers said that the move was "inevitable".

"We cannot afford to neglect those young people who currently leave school at 16 unprepared for the rigour and demands of life in the 21st Century."
According to the Boston Globe, similar proposals are being made across the pond:
Massachusetts students would be required to stay in school until age 18 ... , part of a broader effort to halve the state’s high school dropout rate.
This drew comment from Jeffrey Miron:
This is a terrible idea.

The best path for many 16-17 year olds is not high school but vocational tech, apprenticehip, or even a minimum wage job. Additional schooling is good for some 16-17 year olds; that does not mean it is good for everyone.

A higher dropout age will in any case do little to keep students in school; many already drop out before legally permitted because enforcement is lax, and the resources to enforce an even higher age would be substantial. Those resources are better employed serving the students who want to be in school.

Students forced to stay in school, moreover, especially at ages 16-17, can be disruptive or even dangerous to other students.

The right policy change, therefore, is to lower the dropout age, or even eliminate it. Raising it to 18 will waste resources and reduce school quality for those who want to learn.
I couldn't put it better.

Education isn't a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. People who leave school at 16 are free to return to study later in life, when they actually want to learn. Until they are ready, no good can come from trying to force them.

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