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Education: Latin or Tech?

In 2021 the UK government announced that it is introducing Latin to 40 state schools in England. The scheme will cost £4 million and start in September 2022. Its motivation is reportedly to reduce the notion of elitism that surrounds Latin, which is currently only commonly taught in private schools. 

There is no doubt that Latin is an interesting and valuable subject. This article is not meant to be an assault on the virtues of Latin, or an exploration of its value.  But this feels like a backwards looking, antiquated move. A token gesture to tackle ‘elitism’ without actually thinking about what elitism is. 

Education: Latin or Tech?

Offering Latin is not a bad thing, but the world is changing and our education system is not keeping up. The world is becoming more digital and it is happening rapidly. Digitally mature companies are 17% more profitable than their counterparts who are technologically behind them (Deloitte). 

We are now entering the post-digital era, where digital maturity is the new normal. The rate of technological advancement is astounding. The recent rise of DARQ technologies is going to change the world, and the workplace. Read more about DARQ technologies here. Technology is advancing at a pace like never before. Accenture now talks about ‘Human+’ workers: workers who use technology as standard to improve performance. Being tech-savvy is the new normal. Add it to the list of essential life skills: read, write, code. 

The Tech Skills Gap

We have a serious tech skills gap, which is slowing the rate of innovation and economic growth in the UK. We have a huge gender gap in the tech industry. Tech salaries are spiralling, but we don’t have the people we need to fill these roles. Women in particular lose out - worsening the existing gender pay gap. 

There can be only one logical conclusion from all of this. Schools are simply not preparing our young people for successful careers in the modern, digital era. To be fair, it is a challenging task. Firstly, schools are preparing young people well in advance of when they will be entering the workplace. So it would be impossible to teach them the exact technologies they might be using in 5 years time. But we can teach them to understand technology, and we can teach them to think innovatively. Secondly, the existing tech skills shortage will make it difficult to hire technically talented teachers. So schools will need to think outside the box.  

In October 2021 the UK Government announced bonuses of £3,000 for young teachers in maths, science and computing. This is a welcome move and will help to persuade talented people to go into teaching. Even with the £3,000 bonus, a teaching salary will be well behind that of the salary of a techie, but it is a start. 

A Better Solution

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To combat ‘elitism’ we need to make sure that students from all schools are well equipped with the skills and attitudes they need to access high quality, well paid, future-proof jobs. Only by ensuring that young people from all backgrounds are offered the opportunity to learn the skills they need to succeed in life, can we truly start to level the playing field. Young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are far less likely to have access to expensive tech and software systems, so it is crucial that they are taught tech skills in school. 

Businesses are not crying out for more candidates with a Latin GCSE. The job boards are not flooded with jobs requiring 5 years’ experience in Latin. 

Spend the £4 million teaching young people skills that they will need to succeed in life. Teach them tech. Teach them software engineering, open their eyes to AI and other DARQ technologies. Teach them to think innovatively and imagine what might be possible with these technologies. Integrate technology into every school subject, so that it becomes the new normal. Incorporate AI lessons into maths, replace Latin with Python, teach natural language processing skills in English and create Non-Fungible Tokens in Art.

The current education system is failing our young people, and our economy. It doesn’t reflect the world we live in. It is out of date, and due an overhaul. Adding Latin to 40 state schools isn’t going to help level the playing field. 

In October 2021, the UK Government also announced a National AI strategy. Part of this strategy is to fund post-graduate education in AI, which will be focused on women and other minority groups. This is a welcome strategy which will hopefully help to close the tech and gender skills gaps.

At Volanto we are technology experts. We help businesses achieve growth by leveraging technology and creating healthy cultures. Contact us now to see how we can help your business grow. We are passionate about closing the tech skills gap, and helping the next generation achieve the education they need to succeed. 

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