Writing in today’s Guardian Peter Wilby asks ‘if our long love affair with education is coming to an end’. He refers back to this earlier article reporting a UK government announcement that future accountants, lawyers, engineers and others will be able to qualify without having a degree. Noting that the children of affluent parents do best in education, Wilby argues that the raising over time of the academic bar for entry to many professions has effectively blocked poorer children from getting a foothold.
I agree that we should be concerned over post-compulsory education becoming the preserve of the privileged few, which is why I believe charging tuition fees for university study is a bad policy likely to deter many from applying. I’m also reminded of the efforts that colleagues in my workplace go to in order that people with non-traditional educational backgrounds put themselves forward for university entry, and the work that goes on to help students succeed once they have enrolled. Like Peter Wilby, I too think that education should be something which people engage in over the course of a lifetime, and not in their first two or three decades only.
What I object to is that part of Wilby’s argument where he turns to nursing specifically and says, ‘As Ilora Findlay, professor of palliative medicine at Cardiff University, has put it, “a nurse can graduate without being able…to apply the scientific basis of illness to real patients or respecting the importance of hands-on care”. This is not a scenario I recognise. Student nurses spend half of their time on placement, and whilst there have to demonstrate to the satisfaction of their mentors their ability to perform in practice. This includes providing real care, to real patients.