Education is not a privilege of the rich and a well-to-do; it is the inalienable right of every child and young person. Students nowadays have a bad reputation in the media, accused of having an ‘easy ride’ unlike previous generations. Whilst a lot of fun can be had at university, it is undeniable that our outdated education system fails many students, with the financial burdens of university and class divides continuing to hinder the progress of equality.
A 4-year degree course, with roughly 40 study hours a week will leave many students with 70,000 worth of debt to look forward to. The government argues that “the interest rate is low” or that “you don’t have to pay it back until you earn more than £21,000 per year” or finally that “you’ll get a better-paid job after university so it’s fine”. Whilst these comments are to some extent true, they are irrelevant in demonstrating that our education system remains fair. The point remains that many families in the UK cannot afford to send their children to university and to many it is totally unknown that scholarships or bursaries are there, many of which take hours of scanning through random pages on university websites to find out about. The sheer thought of inheriting so much debt simply frightens many prospective students into believing that they cannot access higher education: this is disgraceful.
To many people, £9000 annual tuition fees already seems ridiculous enough. Nonetheless, it has recently been announced that tuition fees will yet again be increasing and that maintenance grants for the poorest students will be scrapped. This will make higher education even more inaccessible. What can students do to counteract this? Not much is the answer. If young people want to go to university, then they ultimately have to be prepared to accept a lifetime worth of debt.
In addition to our education system still being revolved around money, the issue of class privilege also remains an underlying problem. Through Teresa May’s new post-Brexit cabinet reshuffle, we have observed how the class system is to some extent eradicating itself in some areas; the new education secretary, Justin Greenwood, for example, being the first education secretary in our history to be state- educated. Little such progress is to be seen within our education system, however.
The objective of private education is clear and it is understandable that those who go to better schools with better teachers are in most cases more likely to be more successful in terms of their education. This is a given. This does not distract from the fact, however, that many modern state schools or academies are simply neglecting their students and fail to provide them with the opportunities they need. Many state schools offer no interview preparation, no work experience opportunities, no or little opportunities to learn new foreign languages, weak careers advice and no trips or opportunities to visit universities. Many state schools simply do not provide their students with the experiences and opportunities they require in order to access higher education or to even stand a chance of competing with privately educated students for possible university places. This is why many parents send their children to private schools in order to give them the best chance to access such opportunities. Ultimately such opportunities should not have a price; they are basic educational opportunities and should be available for all, regardless of the type of school you attend.
There has been some promise within the education system over the last decade, however the elite few continue to dominate the top university places within our country; not always due to potential and knowledge, but their parent’s ability to pay. Tuition fees continue to rise and working class families are scared that they cannot afford education, something which is a human right. Those working class students who do have the ambition and courage to apply to university are disadvantaged in the application process, simply because they do not go to a private school, and modern state schools do not prepare these students well enough for life after compulsory education. It cannot be claimed that it is impossible for working class students to do well in our education system; some do go to university, whilst others unfortunately cannot. Ultimately, the education system in this country remains largely unfair for the many young people who have so much potential.