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Who delivers the best education?

Di Job in Tourism, 2 Febbraio 2001

The plane had started a low descent towards Milan, when suddenly the captain’s voice, distorted by the loudspeaker (who knows why the loudspeakers they install on planes are always impossible to understand) announced that because of the fog we were going to land at Malpensa instead of Linate. I was coming from Naples, where I had participated in the forum on education, and on the way out I had left my car at the Linate airport; I was now facing a long bus ride to reach it. For those who live in Milan this is a sad ritual, so I pulled up my coat collar to fend off the cold and humidity, settled down on a seat and made use of that extra spare time to reflect on the events of the day. The meeting had been lively and interesting, with more than one point of debate arising among the speakers who represented the various sources of education – public, private and institutional. What struck me most, however, was the fact that again the approach proposed was one by which a sound culture (that is, sound education) must necessarily be the exclusive prerogative of institutions, whether public or private. It was insinuated by some of the speakers that professional schools, universities and postgraduate courses are the truest depositories of the tourist education culture, while the education and training organised by operators were labelled as “do it yourself”. In fact, the training courses organised by certain important hotel companies constitute what other sectors would define as field experience. Education and training programmes are developed at all levels, and – as was testified by a participant – they sometimes even turn down the opportunity of public funding in order to preserve the freedom to define autonomous curricula that are rich in contents. The logic by which “education is pointless, because Italian hotels are small and will never hire a manager”, furthermore reflects the idea of a small, petty Italy which is now fortunately being outgrown by the development of national companies operating in the tourist industry, and by the arrival of large-sized foreign companies, with training programmes that are modelled after the most successful experiences. The hot theme of public education is currently the focus on the IFTS projects: a very interesting plan, even though – as one of the speakers suggested – “how much of the resources allocated for the projects is going to be spent on organisation, to the detriment of operativeness? There are some who feel optimistic; we only need to wait and see.

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