Children need to learn that life is about risk

May 03 2005 by Brian Amble Print This Article

CBI Director General, Sir Digby Jones, had some strong words for Britain's schools when he addressed the annual conference of the National Association of Head Teachers.

Business simply does not trust schools to produce young adults who were able to deal with the modern world, he said.

And in particular, he attacked a growing 'victim culture' that he said is producing a generation who believe they had rights to everything but responsibility for nothing.

"We, and especially politicians and the media, are all taking part in something of a deceit because we are teaching the next generation that risk doesn't exist.

"We are saying to them, 'You can have rights till they are coming out of your pores but responsibility? - that's for somebody else'," he said.

"We are giving everybody rights, but responsibility, taking charge of your own actions, taking charge of your children's actions as a parent and helping teachers, we don't seem to have got it.

Britain had the world's most successful economy, he said, but this was threatened by the failure of schools to turn out people who could even "read write and count".

Sir Digby also said called for children had to learn how to compete at school through "exams you can fail" and sports days in which medals were awarded to the winners. Otherwise, they would be unprepared for economic competition.

"If we carry on telling people that they have no responsibilities, China will have our lunch and India will have our dinner.

"There are 1.2 billion risk-takers in China and 1 billion in India and 280 million in the United States. Every one of them knows what it means and how to exploit it, whereas we are trying to create a nation of victims because once you are a victim, you can blame somebody and when you blame people, you are entitled to compensation."

Reminding his audience that it is the tax receipts from successful companies and their employees that generate the revenue to pay for schools and hospitals, he warned that the rot threatened to undermine Britain's entire economy.

"We have got to stop this as a society because we are so far ahead of Europe, America and Japan economically.

"We will meet and beat the challenge of the skilled economy, but it would be such a tragedy if we lost out in the big game because we educated people that they have no risk," he said.

"When they leave school they are going to get the shock of their lifetime because out there in the big bad world risk exists every day.

"Unless we educate children about risk, get them to understand it, to embrace it and exploit it, then we will fail as a nation."

Encouragingly, most of his audience seemed to agree, giving the speech a standing ovation.

David Hart, the association's general secretary, also agreed with Sir Digby about attitudes to risk. "We are in great danger of wrapping our children in cotton wool to such an extent that eventually they will be suffocated."