Undoing the education system

FEW PEOPLE disagreed that out school examination system needed a big overhaul. Certainly the teaching unions didn’t. The introduction under previous Tory governments in the early 90s of school league tables, along with a funding system based on market forces compelled head teachers to continually raise their exam success rates or lose essential funding. Non-exam subjects like music and sport went out of the window; pupils were allowed to sit exams only if they were sure to pass and softer exam boards were sought out while the more stringent ones were abandoned.

The result was ever-rising exam success rates but pupils who were not equipped to do well at college or in work. Employers grumbled about the lack of basic skills. And that was after being forced to cram for Sats tests and exams throughout their school lives to the exclusion of all other the aspects of education, which give a young person a rounded, deeper understanding of the world they live in.

Tony Blair’s Labour government continued the trend, introducing course fees and student loans as a way to expand numbers going to university. It helped to keep dole figures down but since most working class students had to do part-time jobs to try to offset the massive debts that were building they were prevented by exhaustion and like of time from achieving their full potential.

But they did enter the workforce already shackled by debt and middle class delusions, which do undermine working class militancy.

Since the demise of the polytechnics this country has shamefully neglected the vocational skills and snobbishly held them to be second-class qualifications.

The heritage of the great engineers and mechanics who made the industrial revolution possible has been abandoned.

If Gove’s new examination system were to address any of these issues it would be welcome.

But his new exam system is entirely regressive. We are to back to the days of stringent O-levels for the top 20 per cent and very little for the rest. There will be some technical schools but so few as to be negligible.

Everything is to hinge on one final set of exams, with modules and coursework no longer included in the ultimate assessment, piling on stress that will break some young minds. Those who pass will go on to a life of university, deep debt and initiation into the middle class.

Those who fail — around 80 per cent — will be given simply a record of their achievements at school, which few prospective employers will have time to read. They will become a new proletariat for the coming age, going from one short-term low-paid job to another, interspersed with long periods of unemployment and depression. The abyss of homelessness and utter destitution will yawn at their feet throughout their lives.

The ruling class, the capitalists, bankers and landlords will, literally, bank on them being too ignorant, too poorly educated, too depressed and too demoralised to fight back effectively. They want a workforce that is grateful for any job at any pay and totally compliant. The new young workers will be dispensable; it won’t matter if some do fall through the cracks in the vanishing welfare system.

any young people in this country are already in that situation. If we are to halt this the unions must reach out to these young people. They don’t need to be told they are being cheated, exploited and robbed of their heritage. They will, thankfully, have few bourgeois illusions and an aversion to bourgeois education. But they do need to be told how it is done — the old money trick — and how they can fight back. Because when these young people do get organised and fight back they will fight back hard and with a passion that will sweep away lazy and complacent union leaderships — and will eventually sweep away the whole rotten capitalist system.