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The banking crisis ends the myth that the private sector is better

October 17th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

I am surprised how little attention edubloggers have been paying to the collapse of the banking system and the ensuing credit crunch. Education does not exist in a vacuum, still less educational policy.

So what does it all mean for education. Well one pretty obvious thing is that if different governments can afford to spend this much money on bailing out bankrupt banks, why has so little been spent on education globally. Imagine the effect of such mindbogglingly huge sums of money on education in less developed countries. Every child in the world could have a laptop with money to spare. However – there is no point in dreaming – banks will always be nearer the heart of lawmakers than education.

The short term effects of the banking crisis for education could be quite grim. In any recession training is one of the first things to be cut by companies. And obviously there is likely to be a squeeze on public expenditure in the coming years to finance the loans to the banks.

On the other hand the ideological fall out from the crisis coudl be extremely beneficial. I see education as likely to undergo profound – perhaps paradamatic – change in the next ten years with a change from homogeneous central curriculum determined classroom learning to individual learning pathways. I am enthusiastic about such change. But the danger whch has always concerned me has been the threat of privatisation. Depsite a history of publically finded and goverend education in Europe, we have seen the slow development of a private university sector in many European countries. And thw UK government has pursued an agenda of creeping privatisation through so called public-private partnerships and the encourgement of privately funded and goevrened trust schools. Ideologically they have encouraged the myth that business people know better how to run schools than do teachers or the local community. Industry has been handed control of vocational currcicula.

That myth has now been blown sky high. Bankers are now a subject of derision rather than respect and rightly so. These are not the kind of people anyone would trust to run our schools. And I suspect that the companies so keen to invest in trust schools may now be forced to focus on their core business – rather than interfering in something they know nothing about. Furthermore, the banking crisis has restored the repsectability of public ownership. And rightly so – education should be owned by the community and free to learners. What we should now do is start to fight back and exmaine different models of community governance. Models which allow a community to shape the learning opportunities and the curricula to meet the needs of that community. Models that can extend access and opportunity for learning for all.

Such a change could be far more important than the short term funding implications of the crisis.

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One Response to “The banking crisis ends the myth that the private sector is better”

  1. Pat Parslow says:

    To be fair, these sums of money are being borrowed (where from, given the global nature of the crisis, I am not at all clear!) so to spend it on education would have also required borrowing.

    I have a concern about reports of jobless bankers re-training to become teachers – are these the sort of people we want teaching impressionable minds?

    However, I tend to agree that the long term may be looking better; anything which helps shift the entrenched political nonsense we have had for the last 2 decades must have a silver lining.

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