Why Education Isn’t Everything

Previously when I worked with disadvantaged youth to assist them to gain employment, their parents biggest concern was that their child ‘lacked an education’ or wasn’t academic enough. This was especially prevalent amongst refugee youth.  The thing is, education isn’t everything. Yes, you need to learn the basics; reading, writing and how to use a calculator but there are millions of successful people out there with only a year 10 education or less.

Now before you start beating me up and thinking that I’m all anti-education, I’m not. In fact I’m an avid supporter of the Room to Read Foundation which builds schools in third world countries because I believe education is important. But, I also believe that it’s not the solution for everybody. In fact, I think if you have a kid that isn’t academically orientated, pushing them into university studies is a sure way to set them up for failure.

Some kids are better with their hands and practical skills. When I was in Year 11 my school ran a ‘success day’ where they invited a whole bunch of successful people to come in and share their story in order to motivate us. I must have listened to at least 10 speakers but it was one in particular that really grabbed my attention.

The speaker was a very successful home builder and multi-million dollar business owner. In fact he was by far the richest and most ‘successful’ speaker at the event. By his own admission he totally sucked at school and had dropped out at the end of year nine.  His father was a firm believer in ‘earning or learning’ so he needed to find a job and managed to wrangle one as a Builder’s Apprentice (Note: This was back in the 80’s, you will find it difficult to get an apprenticeship without at least a Year 10 education now, if not Year 12). By the time he finished his apprenticeship he had decided that by better managing how he organised staff, he would be able to build 10 houses in the time it took his boss to build one – and that’s exactly what he did to become one of the most successful builders around and to turn profits that the area had never before seen in the industry.

What you need to know is:

  • A basic education is a must. Everybody should be able to read, write and complete basic arithmetic. In this day and age basic computer skills are another must. You need to be able to fill in a job application, google information, work out the correct amount of change to give someone and read the newspaper.
  • Some people are academically orientated. They should absolutely be encouraged to further their education.
  • Some people are better with practical tasks. Apprenticeships & Traineeships allow them to combine their practical skills with a theoretical education.
  • Some people just suck at school. Once they have the basics, encouraging them to find something they are good at and a job in a related field is of more benefit then pushing them further into an academic environment.
  • Year 12 is the new Year 10. A junior certificate no longer cuts it with a lot of employers but the good news is that schools have implemented a whole bunch of ‘VET’ subjects to cater for students that need a more ‘hands on’ approach.
  • Don’t be too worried if you (or your child) is a ‘late bloomer’. Plenty of over achieving high school students have found themselves stripping by their 30’s. (Trust me, it happens more than you think) and plenty of ‘troublemakers’ have gone on to have successful careers in their 30’s and 40’s.


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