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(en) Ireland, Workers Solidarity #83 - Bleeding Education Dry OECD Report Advocates Increased Fees, More Inequality

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sat, 18 Dec 2004 08:59:29 +0100 (CET)


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Something is seriously amiss in education. Inequality of access is rampant
and it doesn't take a genius to figure out that the latest Organisation for
Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report and bouts of
rhetoric from the government are going to do little to solve it. Beaten back
two years ago, the government is once again trying to introduce fees, this
time dumping the idea onto the OECD. Meanwhile, back home it uses its
own shoddy track record in tackling educational inequality as a justification.
It comes as no shock that out of 26 countries the OECD surveyed Ireland
is the fourth richest, yet comes second last in funding education. In 1999
3.2 per cent of students left the formal education system before even taking
the Junior Cert. A 1998 literacy survey found that 1 in 10 children still
leave primary school with significant reading problems caused by a lack of
resources. Most research proves there is a direct correlation between the
social background of a kid and their access to education at any given level.

The OECD identifies a funding crisis in education, something anyone
working in education could have told you. This year saw a series of heavy
cuts imposed in order to force University heads into accepting fees. Yet
despite a funding crisis that led to library cuts last year, the President of
UCD Hugh Brady still managed to find euro 1.6m for house renovations
paid for by the college.

As in UCD, this is an issue of priorities. Nothing is making this clearer
than the state's plans for third level. Reneging on its social duty to fund
education, it intends to let private companies fill the gap endangering
academic freedom and educational quality in the process. John Dawkins is
the main driving force behind the latest OECD report, a former Australian
education minister who oversaw similar changes in Australian education
in the 1980's. One of the consequences of this was a 38% fall in the
numbers of working class men entering third level education and a drop of
17,000 mature students enrolling annually. Fear of accumulating debt was
the reason given by 61% of prospective students from low-income
backgrounds for their decision not to go to third level. A fact much ignored
by Irish media commentators who laud this Australian 'loan model', while
buying all the bullshit about inclusion the Education minister has to sell.

Imposing more fees at the college door will only compound the problems
of high rents, increased work pressures, miserable incomes and crap
grants that drive most people away from third level. And God knows what
it will do to tackle underfunding in primary and secondary schools. One
thing is for certain, until we stand up and begin to promote a vision of
education as a social right for all rather than something reserved for those
that can pay and for business interests to exploit, we can expect the
inequality to continue. Decisions like Brady's gaff will also continue, until
those involved in education control the decisions affecting them.
Opposition so far has been meek, its time to crank it up into a movement
that can issue more than just press releases, reports and declarations.
Instead we need actions and occupations across the campuses involving
workers on shit contracts, researchers whose work has no value to
business and students subsisting below even the essentials.

by James R

This article was first published online at indymedia.ie
http://www.indymedia.ie/newswire.php?story_id=67909
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Anarchist paper 'Workers Solidarity'.
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