Quite simply because if you give someone a good education then they have—regardless of social background—the tools to better their life. You cannot get a good job if you are unable to read or write, or even speak, at least your own language properly.
If people choose not to take advantage of this potential... well... we shouldn't have to support their laziness. But if they have never been given the most basic equipment, then it becomes far more difficult to blame them when they cannot make a life beyond the dole.
In our modern world, education makes a life: it's that simple.
And no matter what the tractor statistics say, our education system is failing appallingly. One only has to read To Miss With Love on a regular basis to get the personal stories of how and why this is happening; to gain a wider perspective, articles like this are depressingly common.
The analysis of final year work produced at Imperial College London found that UK students made almost three times as many errors in English compared to their foreign counterparts from China, Singapore and Indonesia.
Bernard Lamb, Emeritus reader in genetics at Imperial and president of the Queen's English Society, found that his 18 home grown students had an average of 52.2 errors in two pieces of assessed course work and the final degree exam, while the 10 overseas students averaged only 18.8 errors.
The UK students, attending one of the best universities in the world, all had excellent A-level results, or equivalents, yet all their written work had to be corrected for English.
"Overseas students were much better in avoiding word confusions and errors with apostrophes, other punctuation, grammar and spelling," he said. "We need to raise the very poor standards of UK students by introducing more demanding syllabuses and exams, more explicit teaching and examining of English and by consistent and constructive correction of errors by teachers of all subjects," he said.
As Tom Paine points out, this is because of a systematic failure in our education policy.
As someone trying to learn Chinese, I know the height of the language barrier those Chinese students have crossed. If they can write better English than a native speaker with "good" A levels then, trust me, something is rotten in the state of British education. I do not hesitate to name that rottenness for you. British educationalists are more concerned about agitprop than truth. They are interested, not in opening minds, but in closing them.
As someone who had an excellent education, your humble Devil is often excoriated as being out of touch with the concerns of ordinary people. This is not the case: as an Etonian, I know what good education looks like.
Further, unlike those who continually and tediously advocate the return to legitimacy of grammar schools, I am more interested in policies that will deliver a good education to everyone—not just a select few.
Having compared the outcomes from our education system with others, I firmly believe that the Swedish-style voucher model is the way to go.
This model was profiled by the Economist some time ago; unfortunately that article has disappeared behind a pay-wall, but the introduction there can be combined with a quote from the article that I put in one of my older posts.
FEW ideas in education are more controversial than vouchers—letting parents choose to educate their children wherever they wish at the taxpayer's expense. First suggested by Milton Friedman, an economist, in 1955, the principle is compellingly simple. The state pays; parents choose; schools compete; standards rise; everybody gains.
Simple, perhaps, but it has aroused predictable—and often fatal—opposition from the educational establishment. Letting parents choose where to educate their children is a silly idea; professionals know best. Co-operation, not competition, is the way to improve education for all. Vouchers would increase inequality because children who are hardest to teach would be left behind.
Quote from older post.
The strongest evidence against this criticism comes from Sweden, where parents are freer than those in almost any other country to spend as they wish the money the government allocates to educating their children. Sweeping education reforms in 1992 not only relaxed enrolment rules in the state sector, allowing students to attend schools outside their own municipality, but also let them take their state funding to private schools, including religious ones and those operating for profit. The only real restrictions imposed on private schools were that they must run their admissions on a first-come-first-served basis and promise not to charge top-up fees (most American voucher schemes impose similar conditions).
The result has been burgeoning variety and a breakneck expansion of the private sector. At the time of the reforms only around 1% of Swedish students were educated privately; now 10% are, and growth in private schooling continues unabated.
Anders Hultin of Kunskapsskolan, a chain of 26 Swedish schools founded by a venture capitalist in 1999 and now running at a profit, says its schools only rarely have to invoke the first-come-first-served rule—the chain has responded to demand by expanding so fast that parents keen to send their children to its schools usually get a place. So the private sector, by increasing the total number of places available, can ease the mad scramble for the best schools in the state sector (bureaucrats, by contrast, dislike paying for extra places in popular schools if there are vacancies in bad ones).
More evidence that choice can raise standards for all comes from Caroline Hoxby, an economist at Harvard University, who has shown that when American public schools must compete for their students with schools that accept vouchers, their performance improves. Swedish researchers say the same. It seems that those who work in state schools are just like everybody else: they do better when confronted by a bit of competition.
Schools must be entirely freed from government control—no national pay deal for teachers, no national curriculum, abolition of catchment areas, and no pen-pushing Local Education Authorities stealing a third of the money.
Almost unbelievably, Cameron and his merry men seem to be stutteringly edging towards such a policy. In the Telegraph, Dave writes that he will address our educational failure.
Take school reform. In today's top-down system, all too often parents have to take whatever school they're given. We're going to put meaningful choice in their hands by smashing open the state education monopoly so that any qualified organisation can set up a new state school. This will help raise standards across the board.
What some of these changes might entail were viewed by your humble Devil on Channel 4 News last night. Although Michael Gove might be one of the creepiest-looking men on the planet, he might actually be pushing the Conservatives down a positive route.
The Conservatives are threatening a cull of teachers in poorly-performing schools if they are elected to government.
They plan to get rid of what they call bad teachers and put the poorest performing schools in England into the hands of independent organisations. Based on what has happened with academies taking over failing schools, senior Tories expect a quarter to a third of staff in these schools would be removed as part of their plans to improve standards.
It is part of what Conservative strategists plan as an assault on teaching standards in the classroom which would also see the end of national pay awards and a massive switch from traditional teacher training.
Good. National Pay Awards are one of the stupidest things ever devised—a £2000 pay rise quite obviously buys you more in the depths of Yorkshire than it does in Surrey.
Shadow Schools Secretary Michael Gove believes that academy schools like the Harris Academy in Norwood, south London show the way.
Since the new team took over the old failing school half the staff have gone. The academy thinks that was central to turning around results.
A basic minimum for teachers' pay, currently just over £20,000 a year, would be set but individual headteachers would be free to spread around their own budgets in salary and bonuses.
This is entirely sensible—it gives schools the facility to control their own spending, to set their priorities. Oh, and it'll piss the unions right off—something that was imediately obvious when some bitch from the NUT popped up on the programme, making the usual veiled and not-so-veiled threats.
However, some argue that such a plan would not be effective.
Fuck the teaching unions: as I have consistently argued—most recently in the case of the Royal Mail—the public services are not supposed to be run for the benefit of those who work in them.
On top of all that, Mr Gove wants to parachute thousands of new teaching recruits straight into schools, bypassing the established courses and traditional teacher training and replacing what he believes is a seam of underperforming staff.
This is another good thing: if you want good people to go into teaching, then you need to lower the barriers to entry. Making people do pointless shit like the PGCE simply discourage them from entering the teaching profession in the first place.
All of these things are good measures, but they are meaningless without the crucial element of customer choice.
If a school wants to pay bonuses to good teachers, where is the money going to come from?
If a business provides a good product, then it grows because more people will buy that product: there is a reward.
Under a voucher system, good schools would gain more pupils and, thus, more funding through the vouchers. If there is no reward for the school through increased funding, then how will that school reward teachers? Or gain more money for investment?
It can only be through artificial assessments by bueaucrats, and that brings us back to the central, box-ticking problem.
The Tories are stumbling in the right direction, but they are still missing the central point of setting school free: that these schools do, indeed, compete for customers. If they cannot, there will be no incentive for improvement, and no way to measure it that does not include tractor statistic-style bureaucracy.
As such, I find myself moved to repeat what I wrote the last time that Cameron announced something of this sort.
Yes, Dave, you are quite correct in all of that but as usual you are totally unable to understand what makes these systems work. For fuck's sake, get the state out of schooling!
Abolish the hugely wasteful LEAs, pen-pushing institutions which gobble up huge amounts of money—money that should be going to the schools—and produce precisely fuck-all of any use (apart from keeping large numbers of extraordinarily lazy people in work).
Issue school vouchers to children so that they and their parents can make the choice of school for themselves. If a school is failing to educate the child properly, then the child can move to a better one. This sustains competition between schools which, as we have seen, raises the quality of almost all establishments.
Privatise all schools and colleges, and allow any two teachers to start one. Do not interfere in teaching methods and do not interfere in disciplinary procedures. Just measure the results at the end: ensure that schools publish their results and allow the parents to choose where to send their children.
Half of the problem with our "broken society" is that people do not feel that they have enough choice. And remove choice and consequence from people and you infantilise them: this is the legacy of 60 years of the Welfare State. If you start to give people a choice in their future and the future of their children—which is pretty much what education is: their future—then you will be a good way along the road to fixing the problems that we have.
In the name of fuck, Dave, you have a working system in front of you. You have cited the Swedish model and yet you seem determined to subvert the system because you do not seem to understand why it works.
OK, that's fine: you are too stupid to understand. In that case, don't try to understand it: just accept that it does work and implement the fucking system!
And, in the name of all that's unholy, get the state out of education.
Right now, we have an education system in which 50.4%—yes, that's over fifty fucking percent—of adults have low literacy levels.
Get the state out of the education system and give people their future back.
And if the NUT get in the fucking way, hang the cunts. I'm fucking sick of these bastards destroying the future of thousands—nay, millions—of people.
Here's an idea, in fact: let us calculate the difference in life-time earnings between a literate and non-literate person, multiply that by 30 million and then bill the fucking teaching unions.
That ought to shut them up, the evil fucks that they are.