Despite Britain being one of the most prosperous nations in the world, our top universities continually ranking among the world’s best and having a history of producing top-class minds, our education standards have taken a bit of a bashing in recent years.
In the PISA test (Programme for International Student Assessment) we are ranked outside the world’s top 20 in maths, reading and science. With this is mind, the coalition government made some rather radical changes to the education system. Their frontman was the Conservative education secretary Michael Gove whose character proved to be abrasive to both the public and to teaching professionals.
Changing the curriculum to include more Britishness was heavily criticised while raising the school-leavers’ age to 18 was unpopular with children. Ultimately, he was enacting government policy but his selling of them was shambolic while he excelled at waging wars against teachers. It culminated in him losing his job and being replaced by the more endearing Nicky Morgan who has since successfully detoxified the situation.
The main issue that the public have had, though, is the rise in university tuition fees to £9,000 per year. The Liberal Democrats were slaughtered for this having said that they would get rid of tuition fees altogether. The move prompted violent protests from students and a rapid decline in popularity for the Lib Dems and their leader Nick Clegg.
The main problem for the Lib Dems was that the rise in tuition fees wasn’t branded correctly. Instead, the changes should’ve been labelled as a graduate tax. Why? Because there are no up-front costs and you pay it back according to your earnings.
Labour have said that they will reduce the cost of university tuition to £6,000 while it is the Greens, this time, who have pledged to abolish tuition fees.
After the scandal of radicalisation in schools, the Conservatives are continuing to push for ‘British Values’ to take more prominence in the curriculum. Between the two main parties, there is also an ongoing row over ideologies with the Conservatives in favour of more free schools and Labour wanting all teachers to have qualified teacher status.
Opinion still appears to be split on education. Though it’s clear that if you’re going to make a promise on education you’d better make sure you keep it. The Lib Dems will tell you as much.