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What education means

13/12/2010

I have spent the past week protesting, demonstrating, occupying, lobbying and photographing.

The insecure, pressured, overtaxed, debt-ridden generation have put down their earphones, and have started to organise.

In the past few months students have occupied their universities (as we are currently doing), protested about the education cuts, the increase in tuition fees, the decrease in teaching hours by lecturers, and the shift from the idea of universities being public institutions able to cater for the cultivation and forming of autonomous individuals to that of scientific management that allows for a socialisation of thought, an implementation of normative values that are not your own.

The fight against tuition fees did not begin in the noughties. It is the culmination of a shift from the social democracy of post-World War II to the classical liberalism as espoused by the Iron Lady herself, Thatcher.

 

Thatcher’s government introduced league tables and the National Curriculum. According to a global report by PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment), schools that encourage competition between each other do not achieve better results.

A 22-year-old social engineering experiment by an authoritarian government has in effect failed.

The 1980s brought further cuts in higher education. Students encountered further attacks on their living standards. The minimum maintenance grant was abolished in 1985, and in 1988 came the first shift in the change from higher education being paid-for-by-taxation to the costs being passed on to the student. It was a white paper entitled: ‘Top-Up Loans for Students’.

Subsequent governments sought further legislation to enforce tuition fees, although the politicians that were so fervent to put the burden of debt upon students were also the ones who benefited by having higher education paid for by the tax payer.

Huseyin Kishi (c)

According to an interview with the Independent, Graham Holley, the chief executive of the Training and Development Agency believes that social class still defines a child’s future success.

The loan expires after twenty-five years – coupled with a mortgage that’s fifty years of being burdened with debt. Your working life isn’t filled with you living plentifully, but pitifully as you seek to pay your debts and living costs. Considering that when you apply for a mortgage your student debt is taken into consideration, a life indebted is not one of liberty.

To those in Parliament who have never paid fees, will never pay fees, and never contribute to the system they want us to pay for, that they have benefited from for free: there is a term for this and it it is ‘hypocrisy’.

It is sententious and deceptive of politicians to talk of progression, and aspirations in society as if that is the problem! It is not an issue of aspiration of opportunity but of the structure of a society that benefits the wealthy elite who do not pay their ‘fair share’ and contribute little to society in terms of social value and export their businesses abroad to evade paying tax.

Huseyin Kishi (c)

They will ask us to pay for the financial crisis and say that in the time of austerity we must band together and see through these tough economic measures. I shall ask why it is that one of the wealthiest nations in Europe can’t even afford to meet the average of OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation) Higher Education spending in comparison to other countries, and yet the means were available to afford costly wars, bail out the banks, and write off corporation tax. It is the government of business that is not in the business of governing. It is a matter of political will, not of economic assertions and weak reasoning.

Furthermore we are now mortgaging the essentials in life – education, housing, and health, which is likely to be next on the agenda as the wealthy oligarchs seek to ‘empower’ the consumer while privatising profits at the cost of patients’ care.

It is a major shift in our society, having now transferred the cost of education to the individual.  Let me reiterate: we now pay the highest fees in the industrialised world for university, and these are public institutions – not private.

To borrow a phrase from Rousseau: “Man was born free, and he is everywhere in chains.”

Students are stratified and objectified under this concept of higher education. Lecturers become innately different to students; instead of sharing knowledge in a passive sense we should be actively engaging in the process.

If this occupation has shown us anything, it is that learning can be collaborative, involved and engaging. It can break down barriers instead of reinforcing them, allow us to muse and wonder, to journey and experience.

 

If the value of education is frightening, the cost of ignorance shall be overwhelming.

 

Hx

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One Comment
  1. lovely photographys Kishi!

    Josams

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