Cuts and increased privatisation pose threat to education

By agency reporter
3 Feb 2013

Welcoming education unions from around the world to a conference at the TUC's central London headquarters earlier this week, Trade Union Congress General Secretary Frances O'Grady warned of the threat posed to education by increasing privatisation and continuing austerity.

Speaking at the event, she declared: "At a time when education is increasingly being privatised and subjected to the profit motive, we must speak up for high-quality, publicly-funded, publicly-accountable education, that is accessible to all."

Ms O'Grady continued: "With the forces of global economic competition and the interests of multinational corporations increasingly shaping the education our young people receive, we must also resist the creeping commercialisation of what is being taught in our schools, colleges and universities.

"Education is not just about economic competitiveness, important though that is. Most fundamentally, it is about human enrichment, about the power of knowledge to transform lives and about the beauty of learning itself, so that every child, young person and adult has the chance to fulfil their true potential in life.

"But education is under real pressure. Spiralling inequality, the economic crisis and savage spending cuts are all taking their toll. In the UK, austerity and creeping privatisation are undermining the educational opportunities available to children, young people and adult learners alike.

"We're also seeing the massive expansion of so-called free schools and academies, many run by business, many run for profit, and many devoid of any form of local accountability.

"We're seeing the rapid marketisation of higher education, with top-up fees pricing many students from low and middle income backgrounds off university campuses.

"And we're seeing all aspects of education policy - from early years provision right through to university funding - driven not by the needs of young people, but by right-wing ideology.

"For example, UK banks are being invited into schools to provide financial education to children - though presumably not the same banks who crashed the British economy and left taxpayers with a £70 billion bailout bill?

"Whether it's here in Britain or elsewhere in the world, we must speak up for education as a public good. It is quite simply the driving force behind all human progress.

"Without teachers, tutors and academics, alongside the support staff who help them, education would be nothing. Without educators, there can be no education.

"Polls consistently show that teachers, along with doctors and nurses, are the most trusted of our professionals, while it comes as no surprise that politicians and bankers rank amongst the least-trusted.

"The union movement must continue to speak up for the dedicated professionals who make education the unique force for change that it is.

"I urge parents, and in fact anyone who cares about children and their futures, to support the campaign being co-ordinated by our education unions for a top-class, not-for-profit education system in the UK.

"Classrooms should be a place for learning, not a source of shareholder profit, and we must resist government attempts to usher in a whole new era of schools run by firms simply wanting to make a quick buck for their shareholders.

"Of course we want well-funded schools, colleges and universities, and good education accessible to all, regardless of background, status or wealth. But we also want our educators to be well-treated, fairly rewarded and respected for the work they do," concluded the TUC chief.

* Trades Union Congress: http://www.tuc.org.uk/

[Ekk/3]

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