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Has education failed young people?

Dr Martin Allen leads a seminar hosted by the Cass School of Education and Communities' Higher Education Research Group 

The Cass School of Education and Communities' Higher Education Research Group hosts ‘Has education failed young people?’ on 18 January. The featured speaker is writer/researcher Dr Martin Allen.

In the post-war period, education was important ‘human capital’.  The expanding economy required greater degrees of skill and more effective mobilisation of talent. The post-war years were a time of ‘absolute’ social mobility – with an ‘expanding middle’. Education also provided individual returns. But the last thirty years have seen a reversal of this trend with an ‘hour-glass’ or ‘pear shaped’ occupational structure. AI/Robotics will only intensify this. Thus, the expansion of educational opportunities has far exceeded the growth of employment opportunities. Young people are ‘overqualified and underemployed’ with the labour market becoming ‘graduatised’ – degrees being needed to secure a job, but degree skills not needed to perform it.

Governments are increasingly looking towards ‘vocational’ pathways as a way of resolving the university ‘fiscal’ crisis – in which 40 per cent (or more) of student debt could remain unpaid. Examples of this include the reinvention of apprenticeships; a post-16 Skills Plan and a new ‘technical route’; and a second ‘Wolf Report’ on Tertiary Education.

These initiatives are officially constructed around perceived ‘skills needs’ but really reflect a potential ‘crisis of legitimacy’ throughout education – or a feeling that education has ‘failed’ young people (Ainley, 2016).   At the moment there is no coherent response from progressives and no agreement on what should be done. Because of this, the 'Right' will continue to dominate the policy debate.

Dr Martin Allen is a writer /researcher specialising on young people, education and employment. He has taught in secondary, post-16 and higher education and has published widely.  Until recently he also worked for the National Union of Teachers. 

He blogs at, where his latest publications can be freely downloaded. 

What: 'Has education failed young people?' seminar 

When: 18 January, 1-2 pm

Where: University of East London, Stratford Campus, ED2,01

Please contact Dr Teri Kim for more information.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Stratford Campus, ED2.01

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