Education and why it is the priority.

‘Education, Education, Education’  sound familiar?

It should because it is one of the few slogans that I agree with from Mr Blair.

I often find myself discussing education fees with people on twitter.  The ‘Why should we pay for students?’ question gets raised at regular intervals by a variety of people of different persuasions.

Education improves lives, Education drives aspiration, Education creates life chances, Education leads to better jobs, Education for the many not just the elite, Education reduces poverty in the short, medium and long-term, Education helps young people make better choices on drugs, drink and alcohol. Education reduces prison populations, Education saves money in many ways, Education helps integrate a diverse population, Education makes us more tolerant and accepting, Education makes us effective problem solvers.

There are many more that I have spat back in 140 characters or less.

‘But why should I pay? They earn more over their lives, let them pay.’

It is true that educated people earn more over their lifetime (perhaps not the ridiculous sums quoted for the graduate premium) but more nonetheless.  However what does this mean?

It means more taxes raised from higher salaries, more taxes raised from higher spending (vat), it means more money available to be spent on vital public services.

‘A ha! then if they paid for their education we’d be even better off then!’   I hear those on the edge of reason reply.

‘Possibly, but our investment in education creates a better educated, economically active society with less crime and less poverty.  An economic boost if you will.  If we don’t invest in education and view it as a long-term future benefit to us all then we will go for short-term (limited) gain by disincentivising those from poorer backgrounds from pursuing a life of education and opportunity we will be stalling the engine of the future.

Tuition fees as a tool to raise some money, work. Their impact is harsh but survivable over the term of a parliament but over the long run the horrendous sums borrowed by students will reduce the ‘graduate premium’ to next to nothing.  There will, in short, be a devaluation of the currency of a degree.  Why then would young people bother?  In short, they won’t.  A whole group of young people will drop out of FE/HE and our society and economy of the future will be the poorer for it.

Education is what we should be using our taxes for.

Imagine my disgust when, on the eve of Labour Conference, Ed Miliband announces that Labour will cap the tuition fees at £6000.

What a disgrace, I cannot and will not support this as our stance for the short-term nor a graduate tax later.  None of these are the right choice.

This announcement is the acceptance of Conservative policy as the only way forward.  It isn’t and we should never accept their market driven ideology over the common weal.

The 50% goal of Tony Blair had its heart in the right place and its brain somewhere else.  We need to think closely about all routes through education.  A degree isn’t the only qualification of value.  Vocational education, better literacy & numeracy for all, Professional qualifications, workplace qualifications all of these have their place in the rich picture of a better educated, more productive society.

Nick Clegg’s volte face on tuition fees and Ed Miliband’s timidity on this one proves conclusively that the political elite have pulled up the ladder after themselves denying for the many the life chance they got.

Grants have been replaced by loans, tuition fees have been passed on to the students and through a neo-liberal pursuit of Friedman economics the opportunities for the many have been reduced.  social mobility has slowed or stalled.  Education is the only way to break this hold.

After our time in office I find that we have forgotten the value of education as a public good, something we should remember in a hurry.

In an attempt to reduce taxes and chase wealth we have forgotten why we need taxes in the first place, it is to make our society better for all of us.

Education is a vital investment in our people not a cost to be borne by someone else.  The externalities of education are massive and positive.  Time we remind everyone of this.

A parting thought – more than half of those in prison are effectively sub literate.

“25% of young offenders are said to have reading skills below those of the average seven-year-old. 60% of the prison population is said to have difficulties in basic literacy skills.” (extracted from report below).


Posted on September 25, 2011, in Political matters and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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