Thursday, 15 October 2009
EVERY LITTLE HELPS...
Sir Terry Leahy, the Chief Executive of Tesco, has criticised the standards of education in Britain as being "woefully low", and complains that businesses like his are left to pick up the pieces.
The Times writes 'Tesco is unhappy that it spends time training recruits in basic numeracy and “communications” skills, which includes writing, because workers are ill-equipped when they leave school.' Tesco seems distinctly less unhappy to pay their low-skilled workers close very close to the minimum wage. Tesco's complaint isn't about the educational system at all, which, incidentally, he is in no position to comment on - his complaint is that his business is loosing revenue from having to train up some of the 40,000 under-19s it employs. If they are keen to have 'better educated' employees they could maybe try offering a fairer wage. But no, that's the last thing they'll want to do - Leahy needs to take a step back and realise you can't have your cake and eat it. For want of a better metaphor, if you offer to pay people in peanuts, your only applicants are going to be monkeys.
His main gripe is that bureaucracy is stifling the educational process as teachers struggle to find their whiteboard pens amongst the red tape that is draped across their classrooms. How innovative, he's quite the bluesky thinker. Leahy thinks that school standards are too low - too low for whom? He's certainly not commenting here for the benefit of Britain's illiterate yoof - he is looking to gain from the better education of his students. I'd pity the students who manage to put in the extra effort, to grasp the basics of literacy and numeracy that are wanted by Tesco, only to end up employed in Tesco, where they will be underpaid, overworked and where they face little prospect of job mobility. If the children were 'better educated', you'd hope their newfound skills would take them away from the unskilled service sector.
And then we have another prize twat from the supermarket sector who considers himself this generations Giddens in terms of his depth of social knowledge - Andy Clarke, Asda’s chief operating officer, announced "No one can deny that Britain has spawned a generation of young people who struggle to read, write or do simple maths. That’s why we’re finding packs of nappies discarded in the booze aisle, as the last few pounds are spent on alcohol rather than childcare."
You'll have to pardon my partiality on this one, but what the fuck gives the manager of Asda the right to decry the failings of state education? Not least to perpetuate sweeping false generalisations about the inability of the poor in society to look after their children.
Sure, everyone knows that we have an education system which filters out students at various points - those who fail GCSEs end up working at the bottom rung, those who finish A-Levels start a little higher, many graduates can look at managerial salaries from the offset and so on. So yes, maybe Tesco and Asda are likely to end up 'purchasing' the lowest performing students from the state system; however, that gives them no right to oversee, to comment on, and infuriatingly, to have influence over the state system.
In terms of Tesco, I am very likely over the next couple of days to visit one of their stores to buy some apple juice. I, however, have no plans to gather a crowd outside of the store and bemoan the low quality of the apples. If I don't like the shit juice, I either don't buy it, or I offer up some more money to buy something of a higher quality. I don't stand out in the cold shouting off about how my cheap apple juice tastes cheap - you get what you pay for, and Tesco and Asda have absolutely no authority, as businesses, to issue comment on the perceived failings of the state education system.