Jeremy Corbyn, a major candidate for the UK Labour Party’s leadership contest, is proposing a plan for a National Education System (NES). He says education is a collective good that benefits not just individuals but the society and the economy as a whole, and that an NES will make lifelong education easier and more accessible.
Corbyn, in a recent blog post titled “Education is a Collective Good,” emphasizes that the UK could benefit from a more skilled workforce. Previously, Corbyn stated his intention to scrap higher education fees and bring maintenance grants back:
“Earlier in the campaign I set out how we could scrap fees and restore grants, now I want to widen that vision and set out a plan to move towards a National Education Service”, Corbyn stated on the Labour List website.
Among Corbyn’s propositions is the increase of the apprenticeship hourly rate. He also proposes making the adults’ return to education more appealing and to stop reductions in the adult skills development budget.
Mr. Corbyn wants to reintroduce universal and long-term childcare as well. His vision is to build a lifelong education service similar to what Labour previously established with the NHS (National Health Service).
Henry Hill writes at ConservativeHome that “the NES sounds like a fresh incubator for some of the worst instincts of the British left.” He explains that the analogy with the NHS is an exaggeration and that people do not need education access as much as they need medical access.
Hill adds in his piece that the centralization of education and its management by the state would encourage Labour and its allies to:
“[P]ursue producer-first reforms such as cutting back on objective outcome measures like league tables, forcing children into bad but under-subscribed schools, or undermining university entry standards.”
Making education free and accessible to all would mean an overwhelmed, saturated market which will cause an unnecessary job entry barrier for jobs that don’t require a graduate degree to begin with, Hill insists.
Corbyn is popular among the hard-to-engage younger Labour generation, Bradley Allsop writes in the Huffington Post. He emphasizes that Corbyn’s ideas have managed to attract some cross-party support as well. Corbyn, 66, an Islington North MP, says about the importance of his National Education System proposal:
“When we fail to invest in people their potential is wasted and our economy underperforms. The more we empower people with the skills they need to succeed the stronger the economy we build. A country that doesn’t invest in its people has taken the path of managed decline. The only global race we will win is to the bottom.”
Funding for the NES will come from a 2% corporate tax increase, Corbyn says.
His proposition has received mixed reactions on social media, ranging from being the worst idea presented in British politics to it being an interesting view on education reform.