A libertarian inclined blog for teachers and learners of all ages. Comments, emails and links to other educational stuff welcome.

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Next entry: Two American Carnivals
Previous entry: Dyslexics are more likely to own their own companies
Wednesday December 12 2007

From today’s FT:

Adult students at Chmielowski Technical School in Katowice, Poland’s coal and heavy industry hub, often show up for courses on becoming coal miners with a degree or two under their belts.

The problem is that those degrees are in subjects such as marketing or management – not very practical courses but ones that are common at many of the more than 300 private post-secondary institutions that sprang up after communism ended in 1989. “They don’t know a thing. Their education is completely useless,” grumbles Czeslaw Jacher, the school’s director.

After years of a hiring freeze, Poland’s coal companies, the largest in Europe, are employing workers again, but finding it difficult to get adequately trained ones. One reason is the post-2004 labour migration of more than 1m people, mainly to the UK and Ireland. The other is that Poland’s technical schools have atrophied over the past decade, and have to be rebuilt.

Poland’s strong economic growth and falling unemployment have companies hunting for new workers. However, many of the graduates they are able to find are underqualified and lack practical knowledge, whether the employer is a coal mine or a bank seeking an accountant familiar with US and European standards.

Jeremi Mordasewicz, an economist with the Polish private employers’ confederation, estimates that about one-quarter of recent graduates are unemployed. “There is a strong demand for engineers and technicians. That is a big problem with our education system,” says Mr Mordasewicz. “Trade schools simply collapsed. Young people stopped going because the wages in trades such as construction were so low. This sudden revival has increased interest in technical schools. Now the problem is not a lack of students but a lack of teachers. They prefer to work in construction rather than teach because the salaries are so much higher.”

So pay the teachers more!  The right ones, I mean.

In situations like these, I come over all free market fundamentalist, and say that provided the government doesn’t interfere all will soon be well.  The necessary skills, in this case (guess) the skills involved in combining doing the job, with teaching it to those doing it for lower wages than the rate for merely doing it, will surface, and be fabulously rewarded, until such time as the problem is solved.  But, if the government is bullied into “taking responsibility” (the usual phrase in these circumstances), then market solutions will be scared away and the problems will be made permanent.

Which reminds me, I need to put the word “libertarian” near the top of this blog, and stop pretending that I’m not biased in favour of being sensible and against being stupid.

By the way, don’t you think this scenario is a classic illustration of the fact that economic development causes education, rather than the other way around?  I do.