Education is messed up

I was talking to my friend today. Her mother teaches elementary school. Did you know that kids can't fail a grade anymore? Kids are moved into the next grade even though they don't have the skills for that level (obviously this is different in different areas but this is what the situation is where her mother teaches).  They either get "promoted" or "placed" to the next grade. Apparently studies have showed that failing kids doesn't generally make a difference in their abilities and skills, i.e. it doesn't really help them. But how does pushing kids though the system help them?

Do kids have any incentive to do well? What are the repercussions if they don't?  When I was in elementary school I did not want to fail. In fact, I didn't fail so much as a pop quiz until I got to university (hello calculus!). Failing was bad.  If I didn't study, if I didn't do my work, I would fail. Failing was scary. I should clarify that I was not one of those kids that came from a family that demanded excellence. Quite the opposite actually. Of my 6 siblings only one of them graduated from high school. My university degree makes me the black sheep of the family (well that and the fact that I live halfway across the country).

I realize that some kids have learning difficulties. And unfortunately schools in more rural areas don't always have the necessary resources to give all the help to all the kids that need it. I'm not saying that holding them back a grade and not helping them is the solution because I don't believe it is. That's simply punishing a kid for something that they can't control. But just pushing through and graduating kids that don't have basic reading and mathematical skills is not the answer either.  

Universities are having to establish remedial courses for incoming students because they don't have the skills that are required of them. And these are the people who did well in high school. This makes me so sad. But at the same time I can sympathize with these students. I don't remember learning anything about grammar, aside from French grammar, after about 4th grade. And it wasn't limited to my school. I have a friend from another province who admitted that she didn't know what a preposition was until university. I've since studied grammar on my own (occasionally) and all I have to say is thank heavens I took French all those years. I'd be completely lost on verb tenses and many other things without French. 

I believe in education. I've seen what happens first hand when you don't have education to back you up. And yes, I do believe that some form of secondary education is important. I am not saying that university is for everyone. It's simply not. And if everyone went to university we wouldn't have anyone to call at 3am when our toilet is jammed. We wouldn't have the people with the skills needed to build houses and what good is an architect without the tradespeople?. Trades are a important. My nephew, the one that is graduating, is going into a trade and I fully support that.  I'll admit when he, at one point, told me he was going to take a shorter program so he could get out of school and make money faster we had an argument because I didn't think it was a good idea because if he took the original program he was talking about he'd know how to do that and so much more. That didn't convince him. However my figures on what an industrial welder can make in year did (kids, sheesh). 

What's the solution? Failing kids apparently doesn't work. I fail to see how pushing them through the grades will work either. Homeschooling? It can be a good option but it doesn't work for everyone.  

I don't know what the solution is but the situation quite clearly sucks.