Education as tainted by capitalism
State schools have always turned out various grades of worker. Now universities are to be allowed to charge the going market rate for their courses.
The Browne review of higher education in England proposes the abolition of the £3,290 cap on tuition fees and declares that there should be no limit on what universities can charge their students. It plans for typical fees of up to £12,000 per year for a degree course, with a continuation of the system of loans. In addition to a loan for the tuition fees, most students would have a further loan (for maintenance) of £3,750 and would have interest to pay on that, as well.
Once in employment, former students would begin to repay the cost of their loans (together with interest) from a salary level of up- to over £9000 per annum, upwards. This is not a high income to have to start paying back the loan, particularly for workers living in cities, where the cost of living is higher. Therefore, huge numbers of young people, on modest salaries will face these loan repayments, on top of either having to pay high rents for accommodation or taking out large mortgages. Economists have been advising people not to get further into debt but the Browne Report will undoubtedly contribute to the level of debt rising significantly for many.
The university guide, Push, estimated in August 2010 that student indebtedness could rise to £25,000 for a degree course. Clearly, for many with the extra expenses of accommodation, books, other course materials, etc, the figure would be substantially higher, quite likely, in access of £30,000.
So, the result of this is that most working class students will have an unenviable choice: either (1) to enter higher education and to be burdened with enormous amounts of debt, especially when accommodation and maintenance are considered, or (2) having to give up higher education altogether, with the probable consequence of stunted intellectual growth, temporarily, at the very least.
This is all capitalism can offer the vast majority of people: a huge burden of debt which induces a form of enslavement or missing important opportunities in life in order to reduce the debt.
As regards schools, dubious methods are being resorted to by more affluent parents in an attempt to get their children into schools which occupy a higher position in the league tables of the exam treadmill. Many of these better off parents often try to segregate their children from those of poorer backgrounds, through the use of tutors, private schools and faith schools. Desperate efforts are made by some parents in an attempt to get their children into the desired schools. The measures employed include moving house into the catchment area of the targeted school or allowing their children to move temporarily into the homes of relatives or friends who live in the sought after catchment area. All of this, in an attempt to deceive the LEA (Local Education Authority).
Then, there are the exams themselves: GCSEs, AS-levels and A2-Levels, with the perennially critical claim that “standards are dropping” in comparison with the past. Lesson time is largely devoted to the demands of passing these exams, rather than giving students a real understanding and appreciation of the subjects which they are supposed to be studying. In fact, many believe that lessons are much more about how to pass the exams rather than learning about the subjects for their own sake. Numerous teachers complain about the rigidity of the syllabus and about how their lesson plans are being constantly supervised, something which previously only applied to those who were in their first six months probationary period.
Aims of the Education System
Political leaders and mainstream educationalists usually claim that the purpose of education is along the following lines:
(1) Acquisition of knowledge, development of mental and physical skills and personality to enhance the life of an individual.
(2) The achievement of the above, it is then declared, will enable individuals to make a contribution towards the overall economic, social and cultural wealth of society.
To a limited extent, in the developed countries at least, much of this has been partially achieved. However, in a class-based society such as capitalism education, like much else, is subordinated to the interests of the ruling class. Those interests fundamentally involve the creation of profit which is a vital source of the wealth of the capitalists.
Although on occasions, mainstream education may refer to isolated ideas which criticise some of the policies of ruling elites (generally policies which took place in the distant past, such as Britain’s involvement in the slave trade from the 16th to the 19th century), the reality is that the education system has rarely radicalised students, apart from a brief period in the 1960s and 1970s. Usually it has taught them to accept the status quo and to fit into it. This lack of radicalisation of students has been maintained through the following factors:
The very limited nature of the education received by many students. Most of that education is geared to the demands of industry and commerce.
Capitalism has so far at least, managed to pressure most students into thinking more about getting employment at the end of their course, rather than to consider becoming radical.
The prevalence of status quo ideas in the education system: the values of religious organisations in feudal times and, since the beginning of the industrial revolution, the values of the capitalist class.
In more recent times most people’s understanding of the society in which they live has been influenced hugely by an expanding media, much of which is controlled by wealthy corporate owners and other commercial interests.