By Dr. Leon Barrett
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development consistently points out that education is a cornerstone of the sustainable development of any society. Through education the youth will acquire better information and skills for better lives.
To benefit from the development, our children have to take advantage of the opportunities to access and complete a quality education of at least 12 years. Our children have to participate in the development of our society. If they are excluded or they exclude themselves, they will be sentenced to a state of perpetual poverty and misery.
Next, educational qualifications are frequently used as a measure of the skills available in the population and the labour force. Societies depend upon a sufficient supply of high-skilled workers.
Given the technological advances that have been transforming the needs of the global labour market, people with higher or specific skills are in greater demand. Favourable employment prospects confirm the value of attaining high levels of education.
For example, on average, 12.8 percent of adults with low qualifications are unemployed, while among those with high qualifications only 5.1 percent are unemployed. Our youth need to be in the employed category to enjoy its advantages and benefits.
Graduating from high school has become increasingly important in all countries. The skills needed in the labour market are becoming more knowledge-based and workers are progressively required to adapt to the uncertainties of a rapidly changing global economy.
The skills needed in the labour market are generally acquired through advanced training whether on the job as in apprenticeship, in college, in university or a combination of these. As parents or a community, we cannot afford for our children to be left behind or out of advanced training. Advanced training is often built on secondary education. Our children therefore must graduate from high school. This is a must, no longer an option.
As the yearly “Education at a Glance” study consistently shows, educational level has important implications for individuals and societies.
For example, people with higher levels of education often have higher employment rates. They also usually earn more. They typically pay more into their pension schemes and, after leaving the labour force, will have a further income advantage. They also tend to experience better health, volunteer more, have more trust in others, and are more involved in political activities.
At the societal level, they tend to consume more goods and services, pay additional taxes on their consumption, pay more in the form of income taxes, and contribute more to unemployment insurance and public pension. They are thus less financial burden on the society.
On the other hand, young people who do not acquire strong literacy skills during their primary and secondary education are considered vulnerable. They are at greater risk of being unemployed, develop physical and mental health problems, less likely to engage in volunteering, and participate less in political activities.
Poor academic skills are consistently linked to higher dropout rates, entrance in the juvenile justice system, and higher unemployment rates. So it is important for our children to complete their secondary school education and go on to complete their college, university or apprenticeship programs.
No longer can students say they will drop out of high school and learn a trade. That is not how it goes now. Once upon a time a person only needed to be sixteen years old to get into an apprenticeship program. Later the qualification was upgraded to Grade 10 education. Nowadays, less than a Grade 12 or high school education will not cut it. And greater emphasis is being placed on developed mathematics and technology skills.
At one point sports used to be a viable option to completing high school, but not again. Few professional sports organizations are recruiting school dropouts. And more and more tertiary institutions are requiring that recruits to their sports programs must possess a level of education that will enable them to pursue tertiary level education as well. This means a high school graduate must have an education at the academic level.
This means all of our children need to take their high school education seriously.
Their and our collective financial well-being depends on our ability to continue to create, build and manage wealth. And the key is a good education and highly developed skills.
Now that I have addressed some of the important issues that parents have to address, in future commentaries I will focus attention on some of the roles of students in their education and as important active participants and partners in the education processes.
Dr. Barrett is a retired Peel Region District Board teacher and educator. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.