Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Enforcement, education and 16-18 years olds - does it add up?

While the proposed increase in “school-leaving age” (strictly speaking it isn’t that) to 18 does create opportunities for colleges and other providers of 16-18 education and training (partly offsetting the demographic trends of falling numbers), I am a bit of sceptic on this proposal.

The think tank Reform have published any interesting critique. Its worth reading. It quotes the economists of the Organisation for Economic Development and Cooperation on the proposal in its latest Economic Survey of the UK:

While raising education participation is an important goal, it is not clear that compulsion is necessarily the best way to achieve it. In the United States there is substantial evidence that higher student achievement leads students to stay in school longer voluntarily. For those students who have already performed poorly, and who are unmotivated, it is not clear what the returns to further education and training at ages 16 and 17 would be, particularly since the return on many existing vocational qualifications is low and the new diplomas are yet to be tested. It should also be kept in mind that education participation is a relatively poor proxy for skills, and that a focus on qualifications can hide problems of poor usage and over-qualification. Educational quality – measured by cognitive skills – is a much better measure of human capital than years of schooling, and care should be taken to ensure that greater quantity is not sought at the expense of quality.

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