The recent fiasco surrounding A-level grades has highlighted the centuries-old inequality in education.
This year’s results were initially determined by an algorithm, rather than teachers’ predicted grades. This resulted in nearly 40% of marks being downgraded across England, Wales, and the North of Ireland. The Tories only reversed this insane policy following a massive backlash and wave of protest.
One rule for the rich...
Yet even with the government’s U-turn, the whole debacle has exposed the rottenness of the class inequalities in the education system. A massively disproportionate amount of these downgrades occurred for students from state schools as opposed to private schools.
Private schools grades went up, state schools grades went down. Knowing the Tories, I am surprised no one is asking whether the algorithm didn't perhaps work exactly as it was designed to.— Neville (@1FightingIrish) August 18, 2020
Many students in state schools – especially schools in poorer areas – had been predicted three A’s, but instead received three C’s. State school students were therefore not given grades that accurately reflected their abilities, but instead reflected their class background.
However, most students in private schools, where the children of these Tory ministers are educated, saw no change to their grades. Some even had them bumped up!
Although the government has now U-turned on this policy, this will not remove the desperate inequality built into the education system. This episode has illustrated what we all know: that private schools have a significant advantage over their state school counterparts.
The media and the government argue that Britain is a ‘meritocracy’ – that power and prosperity go to those who ‘deserve it’. This suggests that high grades, university places, and lucrative jobs, are given to those that work the hardest.
In reality, this assertion could not be further from the truth. ‘Meritocracy’ is a myth – one promoted by the ruling class to manipulate workers into believing that they are not good enough to hold power, and that they deserve to remain poor.
If meritocracy really existed, then why do the rich spend thousands to send their children to private schools? If state schools really give equal opportunities in life, then surely private schools would not exist?
Over the past decade of Tory austerity, state schools have been heavily underfunded. This has resulted in state schools closing, or having a lack of resources to properly educate students.
While state schools struggle to obtain the necessary resources for students to succeed, private schools are well-funded by the rich. Their students enjoy an abundance of equipment, staff, and facilities that gives them an advantage in this twisted education system.
The results speak for themselves: 32% of MPs went to private school, rising to nearly two-thirds within the Tory cabinet. This is compared to 7% of the population who were privately educated.
7% of the UK population attend private school, yet they account for:— Fitzroy 🇯🇲 (@O_SoChilled) June 1, 2020
74% of judges
32% of MPs
43% of top journalists
44% of newspaper columnists
38% of the wealthiest in TV, film and music industries
30% of “popstars”
44% of the top earning actors.
An overrepresentation of the privately educated in government and big business illustrates the inequality within education, and how the ruling class utilises this rigged education system to maintain itself.
Education for all
We must fight against this devastating inequality.
This means ending private schools and bringing all education under public ownership and control, so that all schools can be properly resourced and funded. This must be a key demand.
Along with this, we must demand a fully-funded National Education Service, with the resources and educators needed to provide lifelong learning and training, from childhood to old age.
In higher education, there must be an end to tuition fees, and proper maintenance grants available to all.
The first step in achieving these demands is to kick out the Tory government. Alongside upholding an unequal education system, their austerity and attacks put millions of children from poorer households at a disadvantage before they even walk through the school gates for the first time.
This demonstrates that we must not only fight for worker and student control over education, but also link this to the fight for a socialist plan of production, to eliminate the scourge of poverty.
Inequality is inherent within capitalism. Only with an end to the capitalist system can we truly have an education system that prizes learning over the maintenance of the broken status quo.