Education Letter: No time like the present

I WAS not at all surprised to find the two Alans - Alan Ryan and Alan Smithers - expressing scepticism about key skills (Education, 26 November). What did surprise me, however, was the content of their scepticism. Alan Ryan suggests that teaching key skills is about using universities as remedial education centres to teach such higher level matters as "[how] to sit on your bum" (sic), and as a dumping ground for all the problems of the rest of society. Whether such criticism deserves to be taken seriously is a moot point.

However, there are a number of serious points at issue. At the time the two Alans graduated from university, graduates were guaranteed employment in some sort of profession. In the Nineties, with 30 per cent of 18-year- olds going into higher education, they are not; and increasing numbers of employers are claiming that graduates do not possess the kind of skill they require.

Those who advocate making the skills acquired by students explicit are doing nothing more than making sure that there is some connection between studying for a degree and gaining employment.

PROFESSOR ALISON ASSITER

University of the West of England

Bristol

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