Education secretary Nicky Morgan: "drop humanities to get a job."

Stacks Of Books

Education secretary Nicky Morgan has told young people to take STEM qualifications to secure employment, but is the education system hindering progress?

Young people are restricting themselves in the job market by focusing on humanities subjects, rather than maths and sciences, the education secretary has warned.

Nicky Morgan addressed the "Your Life" campaign, which aims to increase the number of young people opting to study maths and physics, stating: 

“If you didn’t know what you wanted to do… then the arts and the humanities were what you chose because they were useful, we were told, for all kinds of jobs,” 

“We now know that this couldn’t be further from the truth. That the subjects to keep young people’s options open are STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and maths.

“Because the skills gained from studying these subjects will come in useful in almost any job you care to mention; from the creative and beauty industries to architecture.”

Mrs Morgan's statement that students were pushed towards humanities subjects in schools comes as the careers service in many schools has been heavily hit by spending cuts in the past few years by the coalition government.

Condemnation of her statement has also come from the teaching unions, with Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers stating that degrading humanities and the arts "is the wrong message." 

Although there can be no doubt as to the usefulness of maths and science qualifications in the world today, the increase in the number of people going to university to study them is dwarfed by the numbers of those studying arts and humanities.

While the latter has seen an increase of almost 80 per cent in the number of students taking degrees in humanities, business and creative arts or design between 2002 and 2012, it is only 20 per cent for sciences, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) degrees.

With more campaigns having to be launched by government and business to lure young people to study science-based degrees, perhaps it is time to scrutinise the education system as a whole.

Currently, students must make choices which go towards shaping their future at fourteen, when they choose which GCSE's to study. It is normally at this time that they decide whether to go down the path of humanities or sciences, with many schools and colleges refusing to allow students who have not taken this path already to study them at A Level.

Can it really be fair that as a country, we demand that young people make these choices which can restrict them in their future endeavours so early? Or should we perhaps be considering shaking the system to allow them to find their feet and where their talents lie first?

Science and engineering qualifications are notorious for being seemingly more challenging: giving young people more time to time to explore what they truly want to do may give them the confidence they need to choose those subjects.

Britain is facing a skills shortage in terms of the numbers of science and engineering graduates that we produce. However, instead of blaming young people and the choices that they make, we need to look at the pressure we apply to young people, and the way that we restrict their future so early on in their lives.  

Such a change in the system would be drastic, but could very well help to produce the changes Nicky Morgan is so keen to see.