Govt PR for maths, science and languages, and Uni drop out figures

image It seems government’s solution to make maths, science and languages more appealing for school kids is to hire PR agencies.

I find it absurd that Ed Balls’ Department for Children, Schools and Families is launching two major PR drives to encourage teenagers to study these subjects.

A report in the latest PR Week states how two PR agencies have been hired to improve the popularity of maths, science and languages. During a three-year campaign, Fishburn Hedges will target 13-17 year olds to show the attractive career opportunities that can result from studying maths and science – such as becoming lighting experts at music festivals and Formula One engineers.

This is what worries me, they seem to be dumbing down the relevance of two very important subjects. Is there a shortage of lighting experts at music festivals or motor racing engineers? Or is there a shortage of scientists to work on research projects to tackle climate change and other global issues? Will that be part of their message too?

Meanwhile, Band & Brown’s brief is to increase the number of young people studying modern foreign languages after the age of 14. The 15 month campaign will launch this summer.

This comes within days of a review announcing that speaking foreign languages in a GCSE exam was too stressful for pupils and could be dropped from the exam.

Instead of trying to understand the reasons why learning a foreign language is declining in popularity, as well as science and maths, Ed Balls is using taxpayers’ money on PR to try and influence school kids. Why not use this money, I imagine tens of thousands of pounds, on appointing more teaching staff, providing extra training if necessary, as well as briefing careers advisors on getting the right messages across?

Obviously, I’m all for positive and proactive PR, but it has to make sense, and this clearly does not.

*Also on the subject of education, I’ve been following reports image about university drop out figures reaching almost 25% with particular interest as my eldest son David is planning to go to uni in September.

It seems many students have been doing their calculations and worked out it’s not going to be worth their while financially, that the extra money they get as a graduate will not offset the £25,000 debt they may end up with at the end of their course.

Then there is the little contact time between student and lecturer. I visited several uni open days in the last few months, and it is not as high as the 14 hours quoted in this Sunday Times report. From memory, it was more 10-12 hours. This came as a big surprise to me, I was expecting more.

David wants to study Economics at Hull University which we visited again on Saturday. Economics graduates are estimated to be among the top wage earners once they enter the real working world. So hopefully there will be some financial security for David, and not just the worry of a huge debt around his neck.

Yes, I know Hull is John Prescott and Alan Johnson territory, but this will be the last thing on David’s mind as he enjoys student life. The university’s Business School is impressive and everyone we met seemed friendly and happy. I know several people who have been to Hull Uni and nobody has a bad word to say about it. And it’s also much cheaper there too, beer costs around £1.30 a pint, according to David’s research! His campus accommodation looks decent and, including a hot evening meal and cleaner, costs less than £90 a week. The bus fare is a fraction of what he pays in Cambridgeshire.

I do sympathise with unis struggling to attract good caliber students, of desperately trying to get students to sign up to boost their coffers. We visited one which said they would accept lower A’level results, which is why standards are dropping, and students can’t cope once they get there.

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