The thing I really don’t understand in education is the artificial divide between so-called ‘academic’ and ‘vocational’ post school education.
As I understand it (remember, I work in education) academics are reflective thinkers. People who gather and assess evidence and use the knowledge gained to go on and make new discoveries. Meanwhile the vocational bods make and mend things, using their craft skills and the sweat of their brow to do so.
I was brought up Catholic, and that gives me a second meaning of ‘vocation’: it’s a calling to do something. While I associate it with a calling to the religious life I expect that anybody who has a burning desire to do something has a vocation.
And that’s where media/ radio finds itself in a funny place. Increasingly I visit academic institution who have superb facilities dedicated to the making of programmes. In them, students learn the craft skills involved in making content.
Now I’m sure these students go away and reflect on their performance and that reflection, combined with the understanding it generates will make them batter content creators. But it strikes me that they are actually following up on their vocation.
Radio broadcasting is a bit like the priesthood. Unsocial hours are the norm and you often find yourself the only person you know working on the Sabbath. The wages are low and over your career you’re likely to move around a bit. When you’re not doing your thing in front of the congregation, you’re still thinking about radio, listening to it and coming up with ideas. When I see the zeal of many students it’s almost as if they’ve had some kind of religious moment.
Now I know that politicians often believe that vocational education is about wearing uniforms: overalls, work boots, beautician’s tunics, chef’s whites and so on. But that’s too simplistic.
True vocations are about passion and a burning desire to ‘do this thing’. In the courses I’m lucky enough to teach that vocation is for radio and the very best will do whatever it takes to get better at what they do, to network and learn from their experiences in the professional environment we give them.
In fact what matters isn’t whether our skills are taught in an academic or a college setting.
What matters is that it’s taught honestly and realistically. The people doing the teaching need to really know their industry so that they don’t just teach skills – they add real-life experience and access to contacts in industry.
When the students emerge, then the learning really begins.