In the current General Election the issues surrounding social programmes will see the NHS, Education and Transport, raised to a greater or lesser extent. The NHS will be prominent but consciousness around other programmes will lag behind, in particular, education. This is also a general problem outside of the election.
In the election it is possible that no solutions will be offered. It will provide the independent workers’ movement with the opportunity to make theoretical considerations and investigate and consider questions to enable the overall movement.
The question of education as a right and not a privilege is one such aspect, the substance of which can be further elaborated in any political forums. Education as a right of all and not the few, is a challenge over the class divisions in society.
Another aspect of this question is, what kind of education do we need? This is the substance, or the Necessity of education.
So if we look at change we can immediately see that it raises the question of the quality or type of education and education system. Is it a Capital centred or human centred education?
Change and action is the motive by which human beings can alter one type of system to another. The object’s form and content is predicated upon the substance of the subject so education can change from capital centred to human centred. Therefore it is out of appreciation of the Necessity that we will be able to advocate what form the new substance and Necessity will be.
There is the issue of “wrecking” yet the difference is between the existential crisis of capitalism and its perpetuation. In this the Necessity remains the same in content but the form is modified. Capital centred education talks about only wrecking or downgrading education for the masses. The few are offered Private Education or the middle strata “Free Schools” or Grammar schools on the basis of selection where the “gifted” are creamed off to fulfill the aims of capital. Therefore there is under funding, down grading and closure of schools with sacking of teachers in poor areas. On the other hand there is reformulation of funding , new schools and recruitment related to wealthy areas in the post code lottery.
Throughout the development of education to modern necessity, education has been marked by class division.
The slow process of appreciation of the necessities for changes in education has led to a cumbersome and often faltering progression.
The contradiction between Public and Private Education has been a fundamental transitional element, which still today is has not been settled through reform.
Older forms of Public school, elite education, Independent Schools and certain faith schools have attempted to continue to thrive as opposed to State schools.
In this category of private, semi-private or elite accommodation has seen the Grammar schools.
The 1967 Plowden Report, “Children and their Primary Schools”: arguably the best known of all education reports, promoted child-centred education and was much maligned by traditionalists.
The general issue of educational development and elimination of class divisions has been the process of Comprehensive schooling and the State maintained system.
Current reaction to this development has been seen through privatisation, Grant Maintained Schools, Trust schools, Academies and now Free schools under the Swedish model.
The General crisis in education and the turning point in counter development has been the mid 1970’s culminating in the 1976 Callaghan Ruskin College speech, which began ‘The Great Debate’ about education. Also the “Black” papers issued at that time.
The Crisis and General election of 1979 led to the formation of the Thatcher Government and the sweeping changes and general decline in the education process that had historically culminated in that period. The steps in education have been retrograde in terms of state education ever since.
The Blair years of “New Labour” attempted to resurrect the Callaghan debate about the future direction of education but took it in a different direction of reconciliation with the backward agenda even under the slogan of, “Education, Education, Education”.
This did nothing to alter the neo-liberal agenda of privatisation of education but on the contrary embarked on the same road and furthered it. This took in various aspects of the National curriculum and school re-organisation on a pragmatic basis developing along the Joseph notions of “Standards” rather than progress.
The necessity for modern definitions and an alternative approach probably needs to take up the issues from the point of Callaghan’s “debate”, which never actually happened. The modern analysis and decision making has to be based on where mass education and proper public education left off, this of course is the working class agenda and the basis of its opposition. The issues of moving forward on the comprehensive experience and model as well as selection have to be finally settled.