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Billions for the unemployable social sciences cadre – is that really a smart investment?

Another part of the long reign of the past currents is being shattered. Members of the academic community (Student Organisation of Slovenia, Institute of Contemporary History, Confederation of Trade Unions of Slovenia – PERGAM, Coordination of Independent Research Institutes of Slovenia, University of Primorska, University of Ljubljana, University of Maribor, Trade Union of Education, Science and Culture of Slovenia, Slovenian Student Union, Higher Education Trade Union of Slovenia and the Science and Research Centre of Koper) wrote another petition against the current government, due to the alleged “attacks on higher education and science.” Unfortunately, though, this new text is nothing more than another attempt to maintain the status quo, which must not be touched, let alone changed. You must not forget that the famous French philosopher Michael Foucault said that the education system is an ideology of power. The data shows that the Faculty of Social Sciences has received more than 200 million, the Faculty of Arts more than 500 million, and the Faculty of Economics more than 210 million euros of taxpayer money since 2003, the ERAR web application reveals.

In the media sphere, owned by the transitional left, there is currently a lot of criticism of the current government, this time due to it “being late” with the public announcements of the number of places for students for individual programmes of Slovenian faculties and secondary schools. The government is also being accused of unexpectedly and in contrast to the previous practices postponing the approval for the application process for higher education institutions. The Minister of Education Simona Kustec is being accused of not opposing the government’s decision, and 24ur also reports that the Ministry of Education published the Call for Enrolment in Higher Vocational Education for the academic year 2021/2022 on the 1st of February. But the truth is something else completely, as the Prime Minister Janez Janša pointed out in a text, published for the entire Slovenian public to read. “Determining the number of enrolment places in public schools and faculties, which are financed from the state budget, meaning, from the taxpayers’ money, is one of the most important strategic decisions in every country. If that decision is poor, there is the possibility of educating thousands of young people who will have no job opportunities, either at home or abroad. Additional money from the taxpayers is then subsequently required for retraining, or the individuals have to pay for the retraining themselves. In both cases, time and money are being wasted,” the Prime Minister of the Republic of Slovenia responded to the accusations in the text.

We have been turning a blind eye when it comes to the problems in education in Slovenia for too long. Today’s world is very dynamic and requires constant changes in the educational process. In the past, due to the excessive influence of the faculties of social sciences, a large number of graduates in Slovenia remained unemployed for many years. The current Prime Minister Janez Janša is very aware of this, and he presented his vision for the future of education in Slovenia. “We adopted the Slovenian and European resolutions on innovation, artificial intelligence, digital Slovenia and Europe. We are talking about how only innovation and new technologies can protect us from the effects of global warming.”

Why does Norway have half as many programmes as Slovenia?
In his text, the current Prime Minister also wonders whether the division between the different fields of study even makes sense in our society. He believes that the government should look to the future because with the number of places for new students in individual faculties, we are also determining “what knowledge our children will have in 5, 10, 15 or 20 years.” He wonders whether Slovenia, with its structure of 39 percent of students studying social sciences, humanities and arts, in contrast with the 37 percent of students with knowledge in science, technology and informatics, “will even be in any way competitive with the countries where this ratio is 1 to 2, in the middle of the fourth industrial revolution.” He cites the example of Norway, where there are only about a half as many different programmes as there are in Slovenia. Janša agrees that we need both good humanities, as well as technical intelligence in our country. However, the needs for individual profiles are determined by the needs of the market and the environment in the public and private sectors in a certain time.

Therefore, the Prime Minister goes on to mention that our greatest wealth are human beings. Their sovereignty is knowledge. It is the duty of the country to enable young people to acquire the best possible knowledge and skills. According to Janša, the state can offer an individual more, in terms of equalising the basic opportunities for a happy life – “a universal access to quality, competitive knowledge.”

Billions for the unemployable cadre – is that really a smart investment?
The left-wing academics and professors can write a hundred more petitions and letters against the policies of the current government, but unfortunately, the arguments do not speak in their favour. All the problems of the unemployed graduates fall on the shoulders of the Slovenian taxpayers. Many people who have been educated in the humanities and social sciences are not able to find a suitable job for a long time. Only a few succeed, and the vast majority have to retrain and get additional education, one that is better suited for the needs of the market.

According to the web application Erar, the Faculty of Social Sciences has received more than 200 million euros, the Faculty of Arts in Ljubljana more than 530 million euros, and the Faculty of Economics more than 213 million euros since 2003. And it is precisely these faculties that have had problems with the long-term unemployed staff in the past. This problem has already existed for a decade, but so far, they have maintained the status quo due to their influential forces.

The Delo newspaper has previously already compared the numbers of unemployed staff from the social sciences to those from the natural sciences, in the years from 2003 to 2013. In 2003, 621 people with social sciences education and 331 individuals with natural sciences education were newly unemployed. In August 2005, 694 social sciences graduates, and 267 natural sciences graduates were newly unemployed. In August 2008, 592 social sciences and 182 natural sciences graduates were unemployed after completing their studies. The difference changes again in 2011, when, after successfully completing a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or a doctorate, 1118 social sciences graduates were unemployed, compared to the 308 unemployed natural sciences graduates.

“We are at the top when it comes to enrolment in faculties with tertiary education, and as a result, we have major problems in the labour market,” Andrej Umek, Ph.D., warns
In the past, the problem with unpromising cadre has already been pointed out by the former Minister of Science, Education and Technology, Andrej Umek, Ph.D. In 2016, he wrote an article for the Slovenec (Slovenian) newspaper, stating that the problems in the field of education are “typically Slovenian.” In Slovenia, 70 percent of the generation of young people enrols in tertiary education. We are at the very top in the European Union. Years ago, the European Union recommended that a maximum of 30 percent of a generation should enrol in faculties.

And this is where a significant problem arises, according to a long-time expert in education. Due to the fact that too many people enrol in tertiary education, the problem of unemployment of these graduates cannot be solved by any progressive society. The ratio in Slovenia was also too high, as in 2016, the ratio between graduates of social sciences and graduates from the field of technology was 2.68. For comparison, in Austria, this number was 1.16, in Germany, only 0.98.

“The problem of youth unemployment is becoming more acute in Slovenia, compared to the other European countries, as we have an extremely high dropout rate in a system that produces people without any employable education and with extremely low employment opportunities. These little-known facts which are, consequently, insufficiently taken into account in the Slovenian public, clearly show that the reason for the high and rapidly rising number of unemployed youth is mainly the structural mismatch between the acquired education and the needs of the labour market. According to a rough estimate, we have up to 30 percent of unemployed or difficult-to-employ people in each generation,” Umek wrote for Slovenec.

He believes that the solutions to these problems are the following. Firstly, young people and their parents need to be credibly informed about the situation on the labour market. Secondly, an administrative restriction of enrolment in all study programmes whose graduates do not have adequate employability needs to be put in place, and thirdly, programmes for retraining and additional training that would lead to getting the education that is in demand on the market must be created.

In conclusion, we can emphasise that in Slovenia, due to many years of neglect and non-adjusting of the number of graduates of our schools with the requirements of the labour market, we have entered a crisis of human resources, “which is seriously threatening our economic development and social stability,” Umek wrote.

The author of the article remembers the information days at the Faculty of Social Sciences in 2006 very well – at the time, the Department of Political Science (former Minister of Education, Jernej Pikalo, Ph.D., and other representatives of the Department of Political Science) promised that secondary schools would soon adopt the Citizenship Education programmes, which would be taught by political science majors. I was not thinking about this at the time, but even 14 years ago, certain people already had some ideas on how to hire long-term unemployable staff at the expense of the Slovenian taxpayers.

Luka Perš

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