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Debate: School-Leaving Age, Raising of

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===Should everyone be forced to stay at school until they are 18?=== ===Should everyone be forced to stay at school until they are 18?===
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 +This article is based on a [ Debatabase] entry written by [[User:Tara Mounce| Tara Mounce]]. Because this document can be modified by any registered user of this site, its contents should be cited with care.
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Revision as of 17:50, 17 September 2007

Should everyone be forced to stay at school until they are 18?

This article is based on a Debatabase entry written by Tara Mounce. Because this document can be modified by any registered user of this site, its contents should be cited with care.


Background and Context of Debate:

In many countries, school attendance is mandatory for all children up to a specific age. Children often then have the choice of staying on at school for further education and possible preparation for university or college entrance, or leaving to pursue a job or professional training. In India this is 14 years of age: in the UK and many other countries it is 16. School leaving ages are often linked to when young people are seen to become adults in their society, because the state would rather not compel adults to do what they do not want to do. However, there is often some grey area between when children are granted some privileges (for example the right to smoke, have sex or learn to drive) but not all rights (i.e. the right to vote). In most countries young people can choose to leave school at least two years before they are considered mature enough to vote. Economists are also divided over the effect of young workers in the workforce as opposed to the benefits of increased skills levels among the workforce. The debate also depends on a clear understanding as to what school-based education includes: is it purely academic or can schools include vocationally based courses like plumbing or hotel management.

Argument #1


More education provides the opportunity to acquire more skills and therefore more options. It has been shown many times that those with more education find it easier to find work and that they are more likely to find that work satisfying. Similarly, the level of education among the population can have a positive effect on the economy as a whole as they can be more efficient workers. The impact of extra years of education on earnings and economic productivity is also disproportionately heavy at the lower end - that is, two more years at school for a 16 year old will make a much greater percentage difference to their later economic worth than two years of graduate work for a 22 year old.


Unfortunately just being in school does not guarantee that a student is learning. If they lack aptitude, ability or interest the extra time in the classroom is likely to benefit them very little, especially when they have not chosen to be there. It also poses a sharp divide on the question of disruptive children. If they are excluded from school their disadvantage is extended over more years while if they are included, they damage the education of others in their class for even longer.

Argument #2


Ensuring everyone gets educated for the same amount of time at school should promote equality. Currently early-school leaving is linked with other indicators of socio-economic disadvantage, such as low-income jobs or high unemployment. More importantly parents who left school young are more likely to have children who leave school early. Forcing all children to stay in school longer could break this cycle of disadvantage.


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 for being there the same time. Those who achieve the best exam results will still be the most employable, especially if they go into tertiary education before finding a job.

Argument #3


If more people continue at school until eighteen, more people will be eligible to enter universities or other forms of tertiary education. These bring the same personal and economic benefits as staying in education longer (see no. 1). However tertiary level education has a much greater impact on social inequality, especially as universities and colleges generally draw students from across the country, resulting in students from very diverse backgrounds being taught together.


Not all skills are best learnt in a classroom environment. Practical skills (for example carpentry, cookery, gardening etc.), are often best learnt ‘on-the-job’ or through an apprenticeship. Both routes place young people into contact with professionals in the field as well as giving them access to a wider range of tools and materials than could possibly be available in schools. For many young people who would like to work in these areas extra years at school will merely be time ‘treading water’ before they can get on with learning the skills of their trade.

Argument #4


At the moment, schools often focus on those likely to stay on and pursue an academic syllabus, sometimes setting minimum achievement guidelines for those who want to stay on. If they have to cater for all comers it should promote diversity in the school, providing more vocational opportunities and remedial courses for those less suited to the academic approach. This could have a positive impact lower down the school on younger children who will have a variety of role models within the school, not just those who are academically successful.


While diversity can be beneficial to some that benefit has a price. Providing more subjects (especially resource-intensive practical ones) can be very expensive. This expense must be met out of the existing education budgets. To do this schools will have to cut back on the provision of academic provisions. It also seems silly to replicate facilities in schools that are already available (often with better facilities) in non-school locations like Further Education colleges or apprentice workshops.

Argument #5


Lengthening compulsory schooling helps protect childhood. While at school students will be protected from some of the pressures in life. They have the rest of adulthood to work, make budgets balance and make choices. Providing them with space to grow for as long as possible can make them better prepared for adult life.


Working early can be an advantage in some circumstances. Many families need their children to make an economic contribution to the family income, often for example on a farm or in a family business. Working early can help these families to survive. Similarly unqualified individuals can gain equality or even an advantage over their qualified peers by having a few years’ work-experience ‘on-the-shop-floor’. If they are forced to stay in school as long as their peers they lose this advantage.

Argument #6


Raising the school-leaving age is a crucial investment in society's future. Doing so increases the economic potential of the future workforce, and so will bring increased tax revenues in the long term to more than cover any initial costs. Although some countries would experience a more dramatic change than others, it is worth noting that in many states a very large majority of young people voluntarily stay in education beyond the end of compulsory schooling (e.g. France, Germany and Japan). If these countries can already bear the extra cost without economic collapse, it should be possible for others to cope as well.


The cost of extending the period of compulsory education is just too high. In many countries the number of students in the last two years of formal schooling would at least double, requiring a huge investment in teachers, books, new school buildings, computers, etc. And this is just the direct cost - there are also potentially enormous indirect losses to the state in terms of the taxes and pension contributions which it currently receives from young workers but would forego if the school-leaving age was raised.



  • This house would stay at school longer
  • This house would raise the school-leaving age
  • This house would study until 18

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