We all know the modern educational mantra. This sector of the economy is becoming more important, people must be educated in this sector of the economy, employ more of those who cannot do to teach them degrees in this sector of the economy. The problem here being that the world might not work this way. Sure, it’s true that increased human capital makes a society richer. Sure, it’s true that increasing human capital is a matter of knowledge and education. The hole in the argument is the consideration of whether a degree in something – a degree the way they’re taught today – is an increase in human capital.
It would appear not:
There are an estimated 100,000 plus jobs waiting to be filled in the tech sector, and almost half a million more to come in the next few years. So you would think that Britain’s computer science graduates, of whom we produce about 27,000 each year, would be the hottest ticket in town, in scorching demand from employers. But there is something rotten in the state of Britain’s education system. For six months after leaving university, the graduates with the highest rate of unemployment in this country are those who studied computer science, at nearly 14 per cent.
Pharmacologists, by comparison, have just a 3.5 per cent unemployment rate.
We rather need the Ecksian Solution here, don’t we? Or better yet, stop teaching the damn subject.
But then this isn’t anything all that new. Creative writing courses churn out those who cannot write anything people want to read. Nursing degrees create those who won’t nurse, preferring to be doctors manque. And Lord Knows what’s going to happen to the graduates of Islington Technical College given the education in economics they’re getting.
All of which is where the education to make us all richer argument breaks down. It’s as with the market failure and government argument itself. Sure, sometimes markets fail. Yup, there really is a role for government in correcting them. That doesn’t mean that government action will be better than market failure simply because government can – and often does – fail harder than markets. Sure increased human capital should make us richer, education is the route to that greater capital. But education in what by whom? The current system doesn’t appear to be providing it, does it?
It’s entirely possible that if the lecturers stay on strike and the computer science undergraduates use the time to instead to play with the settings on their laptops they’ll be more employable at the end of it. Not a great advertisement for computer science degrees.