Jiva Technology

Its time to end the obsession with going to university

The education system in the UK has become so fixated on the need for as many students as possible to go to university, that its becoming a danger to both universities and students alike. Starting with the Blair government, going to university was seen as an unequivocally good thing. Going to university meant more opportunity and higher wages, because in the past, people who went to university typically had higher wages etc. Little thought appears to be given to the fact that this might be true when 10-15% of the population had a university degree, but would it hold true when 50% of the population was going to uni.

Out went a fairly nuanced educational system where people chose from high quality trades qualifications, technical qualifications like HND and HNC and degree qualifications, to a point where schools seem only to talk about degrees as a sign of success. This has to change. Its not only the students who are going to suffer. Excessive student debt for a graduate with qualifications that don’t lead to a high paying job and mirrored by universities who’ve borrowed to expand facilities and growing demand. There is a real danger that we could end up with both students and institutions saddled with un payable debts. A modern economy needs a mixed workforce and a flexible educational system that allows good quality training for trades, technical and degree levels. There have been numerous reports pointing this out, but very little progress. The debacle over learn direct shows just how badly students are being let down. And its not just students, its employers who need people with the right skills to grow their business. The UK consistently fails to train enough doctors, nurses, engineers and computer programmers. It has done for years with out any indication that things will change. Instead, its left to individuals to ‘read the runes’ and head in the right direction. At the age of 18, that’s an incredibly tall order.

Its time for a change.

Science Gallery London

Anything that brings science to life or generates interest in a broader audience has to be a good thing. The scientific community are important in so many ways and its not simply a question of encouraging like minded students to adopt science at school, its about a broader dialogue between science and the general public. Our way of life depends on science, our continued existence will most likely depend on science. So the opening next year of Science Gallery London is an something to look forward to. Blending science, art and technology, the gallery has already started with pop up programmes at other venues before the main gallery gets going next year. Worth a look in my opinion.

Women in Sport

When we think of gender inequality, we usually think in terms of work and in particular pay and opportunity. A case in point being the massive differences in pay between male and female presenters recently disclosed by the BBC. It seems faintly ridiculous that a presenter could be paid differently based on whether they were born a boy or girl. Historically, there have been huge differences in how men and women were treated in sport. The men got the bigger venues, the women were an afterthought. The men got the money, the women, well …

It was only recently that the women’s Boat Race moved to the traditional course from Putney to Mortlake. Similarly, the women’s Tour de France is held on ‘easier’ terrain than the men’s. But the exploits of the England cricket team and the England football team are shaking things up in many regards. At cricket, the men lose in the semi final, then women win the tournament. The Lionesses are currently running roughshod over the opposition at football, the men always lose in the quarter final. At rugby, a big deal was made of the men not losing in New Zealand. Less of the women winning there. But there seems to be a slow shift in attention that comes with success. English women are grabbing headlines based on being successful. People are turning up to watch and the money is beginning to follow. Its hard to ignore success.

Andy Murray has been a brilliant advocate of women in sport by continually correcting reporters who talk as if women’s tennis didn’t exist. But rather than relying on men making space for women in sport, some brilliant female teams are making waves of their own, based on talent and achievement. Long may that continue.

I’m falling in love with Twitter all over again

Its not that I ever necessarily fell out of love with Twitter, but the irresistible force of curiosity is always confronted by the immovable object of limited time, until someone finds a way to squeeze more than 24 hours in a day. But of late, I’ve found myself reaching for Twitter more and more and find some genuine treasures at a time when the mainstream news media seem to have entrenched positions on … pretty much everything. We’ve all been encouraged to step outside our echo chamber (something of a challenge personally), but thats easier said than done when you’re surrounded by like minded friends on FB, your (digital) newspaper tells you everything you want to hear or nothing you want to hear (in the case of the other sides newspaper), so getting a balance, can be, well, tricky. Twitter seems to be the best of both worlds, with the magic addition of a lot of humour. If there’s one thing that can take the heat out of the most contentious situations, its the ability to laugh at yourself, your predicament and your political … what’s the opposite of fellow travellers?

It feels like I’m not alone in this, so here’s to you Twitter for worming your way back into my affections and just to avoid any doubt, the renewed interest has abolsutely nothing to do with the prognostications of the 45th President of the USA.

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