Student loans for sale – everything must go

In June 2012 universities minister David Willetts told MPs: ‘In the letter that every student gets there are some words to the effect that governments reserve the right to change the terms of the loans. That is a text that has always been there for students, but we have no plans to change the framework we have explained to the House of Commons.’

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Privatisation of higher education

Across Britain, university services are being outsourced to private companies and the conditions of lecturers and staff are under attack, as private investors circle like vultures. However, a fightback is gaining force, having started earlier this year at Sussex University.

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Education notes: Education for sale/ FRFI 233 Jun/Jul 2013

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 233 June/July 2013

British education businesses conquer the world

Selling private education round the world is fast becoming a major British export as national governments fail to deliver state education to their people. This international trade is not just in schools, buildings and teachers but in selling off-the-shelf training, assessment, inspection and curriculum packages. An expanding number of countries including China, India, United Arab Emirates, Uganda, Kazakhstan, South Korea, South Africa, Nigeria, Pakistan and Ghana are buying in services from British multinational companies Gems, Education Solutions, CfBT, and Nord Anglia to resell to their citizens. Today 70% of Delhi’s schoolchildren attend British-based multinational for-profit schools, while over a million Chinese students a year sit the equivalent of imported and very English A-levels, more than the entire UK market.

United Nations fails its goals

One of the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals was to raise primary school enrolment from 82% to 100% for all the children of the world by 2015. An increased rate of school enrolment slowed down rapidly from 2004 onwards (years of intensification of war and occupation) and today only 90% of children have even a formal school place, leaving 64 million children with no education. According to Mohan Kaul of the Commonwealth Business Council: ‘Given the challenges ahead, governments have realised that it is beyond their capacity and means to achieve the task of providing education for all’. As socialists we know that the limits capitalist states put on health, welfare and education spending is a political choice. That is why Cuba, a poor but socialist country that prioritises human development can find the money and resources to provide these services, despite being under the severe conditions of economic blockade by the US.

Private sector triumphant

The growth of private education privileges reinforces the power and control of the ruling elites and their supporters. It also shelters governments who provide inadequate schooling from the anger of better-off citizens who can bypass crumbling state systems, leaving the poorest people on their own. In the words of a representative of the powerful US lobby group the Innovation, Development, Progress Federation: ‘The reality is that the poorest of the poor have given up on education as a universal right.’

The United Nations promotes big business

The United Nations is now promoting and encouraging the imperialist agenda of transferring resources from the state provision of welfare to the private sector. Putting state funds into the hands of wealthy multinational companies is being justified as superior to public provision alone. Qian Tang, assistant director of UNESCO, says, ‘In delivering education, the state should not be alone. The private sector can often bring a new dimension to education programmes.’ The executive director of Unicef UK, gratefully accepts the input of Barclays Bank, ‘combining Barclay’s financial and business expertise with Unicef’s local knowledge to work with young people in communities of high unemployment in developing countries’. Such combinations certainly bring in big profits, with the value of global for-profit education businesses expected to more than double from $590.9bn in 2012 to £1.3 trillion by 2017.

Sell-off Britain

The export of British education around the world is not the result of a widely successful education system in the home country. While the elites of many countries are eager to copy the English ruling class and reproduce their examinations, uniforms, and snobbery, schools, further education colleges and universities in the UK are in turmoil. A viable state sector that guaranteed a school place for all pupils is being dismantled and the statutory responsibility for providing a school place for every child is disappearing.

So, for example, 50% of the land, building and interior furnishing of the large new Haverstock Secondary School in Camden, north London now belongs to an offshore company called HICL Infrastructure based in Guernsey. Should that company sell up or go bankrupt it is not clear who would have responsibility for Haverstock School and its pupils. Multiply this many times for private organisations now deeply embedded in the British education infrastructure like the education and publishing company Pearson plc, or is it Pearson US, or Pearson Luxembourg (registered to a room above a sports shop at 17, rue Glesener) or the Pearson subsidiary, Embankment Finance Ltd (UK)? Multinational corporations with respectable names and shady tax evasion records are unaccountable and parasitic money-makers leeching off state funds.

Mind control as well as money control

Education Secretary Michael Gove actively promotes the private sector. He and his gang who attack ‘bog standard’ comprehensive schools (Alistair Campbell) have invented privately sponsored academy schools, ‘free’ schools, ‘faith’ schools, parent choice and all the rest in order to carve up the state education system and sell off the most profitable bits. Gove uses ‘shock jock’ sound bite insults to attack those who defend the idea of a local comprehensive school for all children. Most recently he quoted from marketing surveys by Premier Inn and UKTV Gold without naming his sources, to support his line that teenagers are not being taught ‘proper’ history in school.

It was a cheap trick but Gove and his allies do not care. They have their eyes on the prize, to develop a rewarding private market from the fragments of an underfunded and inadequate state system in which the poor will be silenced and the better off turned into customers. The Gove camp is serious. We are going to have to fight very hard to maintain a universal right to education for every child and young person in this country.

Susan Davidson

The rights of the disabled child – March 2013

Those who think that ‘political correctness’ is no more than a scheme to stop tasteless jokes about people who are perceived as different should think again. In the bleak days of the past children who were born with physical disabilities or learning difficulties were regarded with superstitious hatred and often locked away from the community. Campaigners fought for integrated schooling as the best option for the majority of children with special needs, including those with physical disabilities, and have largely been vindicated. The long struggle to include the rights of all in the rights of the child, irrespective of class, race, gender or ability was adopted and enshrined in the 1994 UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) Salamanca Statement which described inclusive education as ‘combating discriminatory attitudes and creating welcoming communities’. Provision for a wide spectrum of children with learning needs was introduced into mainstream schools in the UK.

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Education Note: The ‘bad man’ theory of history / FRFI 231 Feb/Mar 2013

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! / 231 February/March 2013

The task of socialists is to understand changes in society as the expression of class conflict and class interests and this should hold true in all cases. There are times, however, when the impact of one individual is so powerful, a Thatcher or a Blair, that it is a temptation to see unfolding events as the result of one bad man or woman. Today, Education Minister Michael Gove is that kind of man. He stands exposed as a villain, a fool, an opinionated right-wing enemy of the people single-handedly determined to destroy the British state education system.

Gove’s utter determination to drive through his ‘free’ school and academies programme, in defiance of parents, pupils, teachers and communities, is breathtaking. His most recent ‘hostile takeover’ is of Roke primary school in Croydon. The governors of the school have been warned to either deliver it into the hands of the Harris Federation of Academies or be dismissed. Last year Gove ignored the wishes of 94% of parents and took Downhills primary school in Haringey out of local education authority (LEA) control to hand it to the same federation of the millionaire Christian carpet dealer.

This Gove is a caricature of himself. In an ostentatious headline grabbing move he boasted that, in the spirit of ‘austerity’, he would lead all the other government ministers and cut a quarter of the staff, 1,000 jobs, from the Department for Education. At the same time, £174m has been overspent in just one year by Michael Gove’s education department on his academies programme – a shocking example of government incompetence.

Accountable to none

Gove has driven forward the academies programme – originally set in train by the previous Labour government – whereby schools are taken out of the LEA into direct central government control, by simple bribery. Mossbourne Academy in the London borough of Hackney, which was a vanity project under the last Labour government, now receives £738 per pupil whereas the local authority spends £517 per pupil. Gove is conducting a massive restructuring of the curriculum and redistribution of funding and resources without accountability to anyone.

At the same time he is a populist who sets out to make headlines with insults and attacks on his critics, whom he describes as ‘elitist’ and left-wing. Last year’s GCSE examinations showed the continuing trend of rising results. This has posed challenges to the government programme. The increasing expectations of young people, growing academic aspirations at a time of unemployment and good news for teachers and pupils in working class schools are bad news for the ruling class. Gove led the reaction to improving exam grade levels last summer by supporting harsher marking and ‘tougher targets’.

He now plans to do away with GCSEs altogether and replace them with his own invention, the English Baccalaureate Certificate. This Ebacc, as he wants the proposed exam to be known, is limited to five core academic subject areas: English, maths, a science subject, history or geography, and a modern language (Spanish, French or German). Shock and outrage at Gove’s Ebacc plans are coming in thick and fast from many directions. Leading cultural figures, actors and artists deplore the absence of art, music, drama and design as areas of study and say that Gove is abandoning a generation of pupils to a future of cultural impoverishment. Other voices are raised in protest about the absence of business and computer studies, once seen as the fashionable means of inducing the entrepreneurial spirit into school pupils.

All commentators clearly recognise that Gove’s proposals signify an end to the comprehensive school and a return to two-tier selective grammar school education for a minority of pupils and work experience for the rest. Gove’s proposals are designed for a specific purpose, how best to ration education resources and discipline working class students to the realities of public sector cut backs. Excluding layers of young people from higher and further education is the current task of the Education Minister.

In proposing an end to GCSEs and comprehensive schooling for the many, Gove is not merely a bad and reactionary man. He is the faithful agent of the ruling class purposefully attacking the working class and their expectations.

Susan Davidson


More Articles ...

  1. Education notes: Gove shrinks state education /FRFI 229 Oct/Nov 2012
  2. No armed forces in our schools / FRFI 228 Aug/Sep 2012
  3. Academy schools: bribes and false promises / FRFI 227 June/July 2012
  4. Plunder of the public purse /FRFI 226 April/May 2012
  5. Education Notes - The Academies swindle /FRFI 225 Feb/Mar 2012
  6. Education notes: Mr Gove and his box of magic tricks/ FRFI 224 December 2011/January 2012
  7. There is no such thing as a free lunch ... or a free school / FRFI 223 Oct/Nov 2011
  8. Education notes - How not to spend the money / FRFI 222 Aug/Sep 2011
  9. Bribery and corruption in the school system / FRFI 221 Jun/Jul 2011
  10. Not ‘dream’ schools but nightmares /FRFI 220 April/May 2011
  11. English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) – target of the cuts! - 26 Feb 2011
  12. Students mobilise against attacks on education / FRFI 219 Feb/Mar 2011
  13. Class privilege: still the driving force of the education system in Britain / FRFI 219 Feb/Mar 2011
  14. Stop the cuts! Defend the protesters! / FRFI 219 Feb/Mar 2011
  15. Higher education under threat /FRFI 218 Dec 2010 / Jan 2011
  16. FRFI editor speaks at UCL occupation - 2 Dec 2010
  17. Dismantling state education / FRFI 217 Oct/Nov 2010
  18. Labour opened the school gates and the Coalition walked in / FRFI 216 Aug/Sep 2010
  19. Spies on Campus
  20. Education ‘The golden age of outsourcing’ / FRFI 215 Jun/Jul 2010
  21. Fighting cuts in universities / FRFI 215 Jun/ Jul 2010
  22. Education Notes: Hot air, inequality and cutbacks / FRFI 213 Feb / Mar 2010
  23. Education notes: No surprises in summer exam results – only pain / FRFI 211 Oct / Nov 2009
  24. Learn now – pay later
  25. Education Notes: reasons to be cheerful