2016 has been one hell of a year, and it’s not over yet.
Following the Brexit result the UK saw an estimated 57% increase in reported xenophobic abuse. In the previous weeks there have been a number of posts on social media showing some of the horrific abuse people have faced in the wake of a Trump victory. The scenes unfolding around us don’t seem real, or even possible, and don’t reflect the countries that we grew up in. Both campaigns were divisive and it’s clear that no matter what your political allegiances are, we all have a bit of soul-searching to do.
But how can we solve this divide in our society? How is this linked to inequality in education?
It would be wrong for me to argue that a lack of education is the cause of the election results. Part of what makes us human is that we all have different opinions and views and those should be respected, debated and aired.
But, in a world where so many opinions are just a click away, education has never been more important. Breaking out the webs spun by the media, taking a step back and critically analysing a point of view, a headline or a single word can make all the difference.
Education plays such an important role in challenging perceptions, debating ideas and developing critical and independent thinkers.
My Russian literature lecturer had an interesting point of view. She argues that Russians are happy with the status quo, and have been for a while, because they stopped reading ‘good’ literature. A language of doublethink and newspeak has led them straight back into the arms of a dictator. Education plays such an important role in challenging perceptions, debating ideas and developing critical and independent thinkers.
The current state of education is shocking. Overworked and underpaid teachers are drained of the time and energy to deliver creative lessons. Rising levels of child poverty and the postcode lottery mean that a vast number of children are not getting the support they need and deserve. Amid the referendum chaos, the Department for Work and Pensions published a report which found that this year over 200,000 more children are living in poverty in the UK than last year. Only 33% of pupils on Free School Meals achieve 5 A*-Cs at GCSE compared to 60.5% of all other pupils.
No child’s success should be limited by their socio-economic background.
Charities, such as Teach First are a lone wolf in the crusade against educational inequality. Attracting high achieving graduates, Teach First aims to help end educational inequality by placing dynamic teams of teachers in schools where they are most needed. Everything they do is driven by their mission- that no child’s success should be limited by their socio-economic background.
I’ve decided to become an English teacher. Not because I don’t have any other options, not because it’s something I have always wanted to do and (as much as it breaks my heart) not for the pay. I’ll be teaching with Teach First on their Leadership Development Program in a challenging environment where I can make a difference. Training the next generation to interact with others, debate and share their ideas and read critically is a step in the right direction. As students who have made it into higher education, beating the odds and getting into a great institution like UCL, don’t we owe it society to enact change?
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