Monday 23 April 2018

You'll need a PhD to pull pints unless we end college snobbery

University education is not the only game in town. It's time to promote the apprenticeship system, writes Eoin O'Malley

University education is not the only game in town. It’s time to promote the apprenticeship system. Stock image
University education is not the only game in town. It’s time to promote the apprenticeship system. Stock image

Eoin O'Malley

Each Monday morning at 9am I stand up in front of about 200 students and tell them stuff about political science. It's a bizarre ritual, which I try to make more interesting with attempts at humour and by getting them to do and think about how political science can explain what happens in the real world. But I'm still not sure why we do it. There are really excellent textbooks that tell them much of what I say in a more systematic way. Yet we do it.

Lecture comes from the Latin 'to read', and the lecturer is the reader. This made sense when books were prohibitively expensive, but now they could just read them themselves. We probably do it, because that's how we've always done it. That's why we do most things. Few people have really sought to question whether it makes sense. It's a bit like why we continue to teach Shakespeare to all our kids, or force them to learn off mathematic theorems that few people will ever use.

But governments the world over are clear that we want more and more education. Our ministers love to say that Ireland has the most educated workforce in Europe. Although we might quibble with their definition of 'educated', we certainly have among the highest proportion going to third-level institutions: over half of 25-34 year olds have third-level qualifications.

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