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We have too many undergraduates and not enough apprentices

MUCH to my surprise, I find myself agreeing with a lot of what Bill Brown (Letters, August 8) says in relation to the current state of Scottish education.

In my day, achieving any “A” pass in your Highers was extremely difficult, as the bar was deliberately set very high, and as a result an “A” pass was highly prized.

Nowadays the standard is such that “A” passes are scattered around like so much confetti. Even worse, for some inexplicable reason this constant lowering of the standard to deliberately inflate the number of pupils achieving an “A” pass is trumpeted as a success story when in fact all it does is raise mediocrity to an art form.

I was privileged to have the best of the Scottish education system when it truly was the best in the world in the 1960s and 70s. I am a Lad o’ Pairts, who attended Scotstoun Primary and Victoria Drive secondary and gained a place at Glasgow University Law Faculty even though it had the highest entrance requirements of any faculty in any university in Scotland. More importantly, Victoria Drive gave a very good education to all its pupils, irrespective of their academic ability and also helped to prepare them for life after school, which in most cases meant going either to Yarrows or the Albion works in South Street into proper Clyde-built apprenticeships.

What so many people fail to understand is that further education by way of apprenticeships is just as valid as attending college or university. In the early 1960s Scotland had five universities. Now we have 15 “universities” (basically colleges) which give “degrees” (basically diplomas) thanks to an unnatural diktat which states that an academic qualification is “better” than an apprenticeship.

In my view the number of students enrolled at Scotland’s universities is far too high and should be cut back, as apart from anything else there are nowhere near enough jobs available for young graduates. The money would be far better spent on proper apprenticeships, which in the 1970s, were funded by an apprenticeship levy covering most of British to industry administered by tripartite bodies. While it was the Thatcher Government which dismantled, this politicians of all hues at both Westminster and Holyrood have over decades shamefully refused to provide proper funding to give young people who are not academically inclined but are good with their hands the training to become skilled tradesmen.

There is a desperate shortage of skilled workers in Scotland which is currently being filled by 140,000 EU nationals. Post-Brexit they will have to apply to the EU settlement scheme to remain and there will inevitably be restrictions on new workers being allowed to enter the UK. Now is the time to give our young people the chance to shine by pouring money into training them to be our next generation of tradesmen (and women) and ensure that Scotland’s once-proud reputation for providing world-class tradesmen rises again.

Keith Ross, Glasgow G3.

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