Raise the school leaving age to 18 (Junior)

In many countries children are required by law to attend school up to a specific age. When children reach this required age they then often have the choice to remain in education or leave in search of employment opportunities. Among those countries that have a school leaving age there is a wide range between countries like Bangladesh, with a minimum of 10, and those, like Israel, where the leaving age is 18. 15 or 16 is currently the norm [1]. The trend however is for an increase; The UK government has raised the school leaving age to 18 with the alternative of training or an apprenticeship from 16 [2]. The age that children are allowed to leave school is often linked to the age that they are considered to be adults because governments do not want to force adults into staying in education if they do not wish to. But rights are not gained all at once some, such as the right to legally have sex, drive, and leave school are acquired before the right to do things like vote in elections. In many countries young people can choose to leave school at least two years before they are considered mature enough to vote. There is a division of opinion over whether or not young people should be allowed to leave school and seek employment before they are considered adults.

Title 
More Education Brings More Opportunities
Point 

More education allows young people to develop greater skills so provides more options when they do leave education. It has been shown many times that those people who have more education find jobs easier and are more likely to find work that is satisfying. Extra education for young people also has a positive effect for the economy of a country. The impact of longer education is higher levels of productivity and earnings in later years. This is because longer in education helps workers to become more specialized, in todays ‘knowledge economy’ analytical thinking is highly valued and this is something that is increasingly taught from 16 to 18. Raising the leaving age has in the past had a significant impact on grades. The previous increase in the school leaving age in England, by a year to 16 in 1972, resulted in an improvement worth one grade higher in two subjects. The result is many fewer people leaving with no qualifications. [3]

Counterpoint 

If schools are failing to teach children basic skills by the time they are 16 it makes no sense to make them stay at school for an extra two years. If the children are forced to sit in the classroom for longer it does not necessarily mean that the results of education will change. Forcing young people to remain in school against their wishes is a reinforcement of the failure of the educational system. If climbing a mountain on your hands and knees is not working then simply doing it for longer makes no difference. The same is true of education: there is no point in keeping students who are failing in schools for longer periods when there is no evidence to show that they will succeed, instead something new needs to be tried. 

Title 
Raising the school-leaving age is a crucial investment in society’s future
Point 

Increasing the school leaving age means that society will produce a workforce that is higher skilled, attracts more investment to the country, and earns more money. A study for the UK government estimated the economic benefit was £2.4billion for each year group that has 18 as the leaving age rather than 16[4]. When there is more money in the economy more taxes are paid, this means the extra cost of keeping people in school will be covered by these taxes. In some countries the cost of keeping young people in school will, at first, be difficult to manage. However, in many countries a large majority of people voluntarily choose to remain in education longer than they have to. In the UK for example 84% of pupils in year 10 stated that they would remain in education after the age of 16 [5].

Counterpoint 

The cost of extending the period of compulsory education is just too high. The increase in numbers would require a huge investment in teachers, books, new school buildings, computers, etc. As well as these direct costs there is also a huge amount of losses that a country would face. Young people who leave school and enter the workforce contribute to the economy through taxes and contributions to pensions which the country would no longer receive if people remained in school. It is impossible to spend more while also earning less. This means that raising the school leaving age is not something that countries can afford to do because they won’t have the money to cover the short term cost even if there are some long term gains. 

Title 
Raising the school leaving age promotes equal opportunities
Point 

Making sure that everyone gets the same amount of time at school promotes equality. At the moment leaving school early is linked to economic and social disadvantage: those from poorer areas and families are more likely to leave school early than those from wealthier families. Parents who left school at a young age are also more likely to have children who leave school early (only 60% of those children stay in education past 16) [6]. Forcing all children to stay in school longer will help break this cycle of disadvantage.[7]

Counterpoint 

Unfortunately equality in the job market is unlikely to emerge simply because everyone now stays in school for the same amount of time. As noted above not everyone will get the same out of school just because they are there for the same amount of time. Those who achieve the best exam results will still be the most employable, especially if they go to university before finding a job. 

Title 
Forced Education Achieves Little
Point 

Being in school does not guarantee that a student is actually learning. If the student lacks interest or ability then the extra time spent in school is unlikely to benefit them, especially if they would not have chosen to be there. This applies even more to the problem of how to deal with those who are disruptive. If they are excluded from school then they are disadvantaged for a longer period of their life. However, if they are included then they continue to disrupt the learning of other students. As Henry Phibbs argues: “Increasing the school leaving age will not result in more being learned – just more broken windows in the locality of the school. Children fed up with school need an escape route, not an extension of their sentence." [8]

Counterpoint 

UK statistics show “There is no evidence that raising the minimum school leaving age made people who had not intended to leave school at the minimum age raise their educational standard. This is consistent with the view that education raises productivity and not with the view that productive people get more education." [9]

Title 
Not All Skills are Best Learnt in a Classroom Environment
Point 

Practical skills (for example, carpentry, cookery, gardening etc.), are often best learnt ‘on the job’ or through an apprenticeship. Both of these routes place young people into contact with professionals in these areas and give them access to a wider range of tools, materials, and experiences than they would have access to in school. For many young people who want to work in these areas there is no need for them to stay in school for extra time. Forcing those who would rather learn on the job to remain in school is simply wasting their time by depriving them of taking that route for a few more years. This means that it will take much longer to produce highly skilled workers in these practical areas. This is why the UK along with raising its school leaving age allowed the option of taking an apprenticeship as an alternative to continuing in school.

Counterpoint 

Practical skills can be taught in school. Many school systems have practical skills schools. For example, in Germany, ‘vocational schools’ (schools which teach practical skills) have been around since the 19th century. In these schools students spend part of their time in practical training and part of their time ‘on the job’. These schools are attended until the age of 18[10], and have been lauded for training highly skilled workers for German manufacturing[11]. It is therefore possible to create a system which is flexible and gives students the option to train in different ways while still staying in school until 18.

Title 
There Are Cases Where Leaving School Early is Necessary
Point 

Working at an early age can be an advantage in certain circumstances. Many families, particularly in countries with little welfare, need their children to bring income into the household. Working at an earlier age can help these families to survive. Furthermore, anyone who is having difficulties getting educational qualifications can gain an advantage by leaving school and gaining work experience. If they are forced to stay in school then they will simply lose two years. The British government recognized this and introduced 21 000 extra apprenticeships in 2009. This was an attempt to make sure that those who are not suited to school learning do not fall behind when it comes to finding a job and a sustainable income. [12]

Counterpoint 

Leaving school early is not necessary. Instead, what is needed is government help to ensure that if young people remain in school then they can afford to do so. If children are unqualified at 16 then there is a real need to use the extra years to teach them the basics. There could also be certain people who have special circumstances which mean they do not need to stay in school. For example, in Britain, under 18’s that are caring for parents, relatives are exempt from extra schooling. [13]

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