By Daniel Hunter
A major study revealed last week that young people in England have the lowest levels of literacy and numeracy in the industrialised world. But possibly more worrying, is that according to a leading IT entrepreneur they are also lagging behind their future competitors when it comes to economic literacy.
"As an employer I find that time and time again young people aren't leaving school with the basic social and financial skills they are going to need if they are going to succeed in the world of work. I know that other employers think the same," said Scott Fletcher chairman and founder of UK cloud infrastructure specialists ANS Group.
"Academic qualifications are obviously very important but I believe we have to steer youngsters away from a totally academic route to learning. We need to imbue them with interpersonal and financial skills and a ruthless business instinct.
"The very nature of the curriculum and the influence of too many 'everyone is a winner' style teachers are training youngsters to believe that money and profit are dirty words. There is no attempt to instil in them the entrepreneurial aptitude including how to run their personal finances, read a P&L and balance sheet. These are skills they are going to need if they are to compete in modern business," said Mr Fletcher.
The study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that 16 to 24 year-olds in England are falling behind their contemporaries in Asia and Europe for literacy and numeracy.
English youngsters were listed as 21st for numeracy and 22nd for literacy out of 24 countries and the OECD has warned of serious future skill shortages.
"The English educational system does nothing like enough to produce the entrepreneurs and business leaders of the future; which hardly bodes well for our country's future," said Mr Fletcher.
"In the main, teachers are not familiar with and have no contact with the business world. They are ill equipped to instil the entrepreneurial drive or acumen in their students that would enable them to become successful business owners and employees.
"In fact, I believe that some teachers actually hinder young people by telling them that 'money', 'acquisition', and 'wealth' are dirty words instead of promoting profit and success as a virtue."
"The whole way we prepare youngsters for the world of work needs to change," he said.
"For example, when I was at school I had Saturday jobs that introduced me to the world of work and controlling my own finances. I think that was a beneficial system but over the last 20 years most of those jobs have disappeared."
"I think that larger employers have a duty of care to provide Saturday jobs for youngsters and our curriculum needs to be radically reformed where the idea of pure academic teaching takes a back seat with practical skills winning through. I dream of the day when we have 10 year olds writing apps for the iPhone, the sooner the better." said Mr Fletcher.
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