UNESCO declared primary education compulsory as long ago as 1948. Yet at the World Education Forum in Dakar in 2000, the deadline for achieving goals was pushed back to 2015. An article published in Le Monde Diplomatique in 2008 reported that 67 million children worldwide don’t go to school. Each year in sub-Saharan Africa, ten million children leave school before the end of their primary studies. Since the financial crisis of 2008, investment in education has plummeted, not just in developing countries but in the wealthy West too, where the most coveted qualifications are often those which can be immediately exploited on the job market, in scant disregard of the fact that universities are much older than the free market.
What, then, can youth look forward to? A solid cultural education is becoming more difficult to obtain. Technical and vocational training implies constant hard work and perseverance. And young people arriving on the job market often see doors if not closed, then only just ajar.
While there are no easy solutions, certain fundamental points warrant our attention: firstly, that a person deprived of education or employment sees their hopes of living a decent life reduced; hence family policy overlaps with education and training. What hope of marriage, with no job and no resources?
Another important point: not everyone need become a doctor or a professor. We’ve witnessed a proliferation of pseudo-humanities curricula with precious little cultural content, no practical benchmarks, and tenuous links with the world of work. Of course, education and training shouldn’t revolve around the economy, but the fact remains that any study programme must tend towards something serious and coherent. Everyone has the right to aspire to the dignity of employment, and everyone should receive a proper level of instruction, be this in the humanities, technical or vocational. This latter needs a particularly good shake-up, as the development of certain high-level skills can give rise to new forms of work in which the “intelligence of the hand” meets new-generation creativity. In this, Switzerland and its watchmaking schools are a major point of reference.
Putting the emphasis on youth means first and foremost giving them access to education, culture and hands-in-the-dirt experience of a job that is also a life choice: flexible, changing as often as we like, but serious. Who’s to say if watchmaking, with its constant need to train and integrate new talent, couldn’t become an essential reference for other branches, to reflect on new relations between school and business, culture and work, instruction and profession.