If you’re lucky you’ll have had an education moment. There will have been a person to lift your eyes and expand your horizon. It may not quite be a Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society – though, frankly, that didn’t end well for everybody – but there will have been a teacher or somebody at your school who introduced you to something that stuck so fast you can trace much that came after to then.
Equally, old annoyances linger. These could be anything: you might harbour abiding frustration at the new teacher who played you out of position so you’d eventually be benched from the school Gaelic football team, just a few months after you’d been captain and led them to greater success than they’d had previously, as your school was more known for hurling. And you may carry this with you for 30 years. But that’s clearly just a hypothetical as no sane person would allow such a minor inconsequence to linger.
Nobody recalls the sustaining part of education in terms of exam and test success. Yet this remains the marker. And increasingly all education is weighed by usefulness. And it is impacting every aspect of life.
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League tables in England result in parents racing to enrol their children in well-performing schools. Which brings competition for homes, forcing up prices and making these areas increasingly exclusive and the local schools the preserve of the middle class. So state education becomes quasi-private – with the premium paid on house prices, not in teaching.
Universities race to keep their heads afloat. They open the doors to ever increasing numbers of students from overseas as this is where the money is. Places for UK students are fewer, and costs for them spiral – except for Scottish students in Scotland who, so far, are not required to pay annual fees.