TEACHER EXODUS THREATENS THE STABILITY OF THE UK BASIC EDUCATION

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Picture of a teacher holding school books, source: the Guardian (10/04/18)

BY JRM

No government department in the UK currently is more familiar with the phrase “I quit” than the Department for education. For the past five years, the department has been confronted with an alarming exodus of educators due to employee dissatisfaction. The profession which was once a dream career for many has hit a bottom rock, resulting in lesser trainees in tertiary institutions. According to recent media reports, (check the Guardian) more educators are threatening to leave the profession, while on the other hand, the department is failing to sway in more students into becoming educators nor simply to fill open vacancies. 

This picture does not look colourful for any country as education serves as one of the key cogwheels for any ambitious nation. While it is believed that the staff morale and motivation is interwoven with the quality of work outputs, it is about time that we witness the negative effects of employee dissatisfaction on the UK’s quality of learning and teaching. Unless the government moves swiftly with strategic intervention to addresses this crisis, the UK education boat is heading for a serious crash.

Nevertheless, with more natives seemingly reported no longer interested in the profession, the UK can resort to using its economic relative power to developing countries and outsource quality teachers across Asian, Africa, South America and even from Europen states.  Whether the government will take this approach or not, it is something we all have to wait to experience. 

Some of the contributing factors for this crisis are discussed below:

Sky news analysis of the exodus of teachers in the UK, source: Original Jedi Watching youtube channel

 

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UK RECORDS DECLINE IN DOMESTIC TERTIARY EDUCATION APPLICATIONS

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University of Leeds main entrance board (2018)

BY JRM

With the 2017/2018 academic year approaching its conclusion stage, the Universities across the European Union have been immersed in the application sifting process with an aim to ensure proper allocation of admission spots to deserving potential entrants.  Confronted with the reality of globalisation, the EU, UK not excepted, is one of the most favoured academic attractions for international students, especially from the developing countries. According to recent media reports (check the guardian), the UK universities have experienced a decline of 2% (11 000) in domestic applications, while scooping an increase of at least 2% (46 040) from EU applicants and 8% (65 440) from outside the EU. 

It is reported that the decline in domestic applications is due to few 18 years old pupils available in the UK system to make a transition from high school to universities and colleges (check the guardian). Despite the lesser 18 years old, the statistics paint a vivid image that explains the global reputation of UK’s academic system in comparison to that of its EU counterparts. According to 2018 Study EU education rankings, as depicted below, the UK continues to enjoy an uncontested lead in quality education rankings, followed by German and Netherlands. 

UK

Children with special needs deprived their right to education

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A classroom with unoccupied chairs.  Picture source, click to view (pexes) 

BY JRM

For those who hail from the third world, who the only view they have of the west is through the binoculars of mass media and/or the internet, it would be inconceivable to picture the UK that is unable to fulfill basic human right. According to the recent media reports (check the Telegraph), stringent budget allocation in education has resulted in many children with special needs being excluded from the education system. This to someone might appear to paint a vivid image of a day to day struggles that engulf the third world children and not that of a country of UK stature. 

Despite, the political and economic differences existing between the UK and the third world countries, education is a global norm and esteemed as a basic child right as enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 28 of 1989, in which it states that “states parties recognize the right of the child to education, and… (a) make primary education compulsory and available free to all”. This is also in accordance with the UK constitution right to education which is provided in Schedule 1, First Protocol, Article 2 of the Human Rights Act 1998, which states that “no person shall be denied the right to education”. 

However, the UK’s failure to ensure that its special children and youth access basic education is not solely a constitutional violation but also appears to contradict the country’s key involvement in humanitarian initiatives including those advocating for the right to education across the globe. According to 2016 figures (see IRIN), on a global scale, UK is the third largest contributor of humanitarian aid across the third world as indicated below.  Thus, it can be said that the UK is yearly injecting a lot of financial resources into its foreign policy while failing to make an equitable allocation for domestic projects such as education for children with special needs. 

2016 humanitarian donor country figures, source: IRIN

UCU members to decide on new pension proposals

University of Leeds UCU members protest against UUK pension proposal: Source: Yorkshire Evening Post Youtube channel 

BY JRM

Following fourteen days of heated pension negotiations between the University and College Union (UCU) and Universities UK (UUK), both parties seem to have reached the common ground, but not yet conclusive as the fate of this new resolution lies in the hands of UCU members. With previous negotiations appeared to have exacerbated the protest instead of halting it, this would mean even now the affected students can only hope for the best. 

Nevertheless, according to media reports (see the Cambridge report), UCU has decided to rest the decision of the new pension proposals upon its members which they will decide through a ballot vote. This appears to be a progressive and democratic approach to conclude this matter, considering a possibility of different prevailing and opposing ideas amongst members. Thus, the vote would ensure that the decision is taken on the majority basis rather than trying to satisfy every individual member. 

But in a worst-case scenario, if most members decide to vote against the new proposals,  both UUK and university students should expect the reality of a possible examination disruption.  With UCU already having scheduled protests for week 16 to 20 April across the listed below universities, it is still to be seen whether UCU members will accept or reject the UUK new pension proposals. 

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Prof. New unpacks the intricacies of the South African water crisis

Picture gallery of  the Priestley International Centre for Climate  lecture with Professor Mark New

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BY JRM

The human propensity for civilisation has now placed a heavy burden on scientists, pressure groups, academics, NGOs, corporations and government agencies across the globe to find avenues to reverse the side effects of civilisation on climate change. One of such initiatives includes the University of Leeds’s Priestley International Centre for Climate and the African Climate and Development Initiative, just to mention a few. 

A dry land due to drought, source: pexels

In an attempt to exchange both expert and academic knowledge, the Priestley International center for climate hosted the director of the African climate and development initiative and a vice chancellor of the University of Cape Town, South Africa, Prof. Mark New, who delivered a climate lecture to a hall filled with knowledge thirst graduates and university staff. In the outpouring of his expert and academic research knowledge well, Prof. Mark New illustrated the severity of climate change on our environment through a practical case study of the recent water crisis that hit the South African coastal city of Cape Town.

Source: the video was taken from the Nation geography youtube channel

In his lecture, Prof. Mark also demonstrated how the water crisis has become a contested political phenomenon and an economic crisis in South Africa. Considering the historical events that took the stage in South Africa and social inequalities that still grip the post-apartheid Southern African state, Prof. Mark argues that the marginalised majority of the Capetonians are likely to suffer further water crisis or even experience a long overdue Day-zero. Whether Capetonians will escape the Day-zero is still to be seen, but the effect of climate change is a reality despite the existence of denialists as evidenced by Donald Trump’s controversial climate change policies. 

As it may be, in his summation, Prof. Mark applauded the Cape Town council for providing temporary solutions to halt a possibility of the city running dry, with a hope of the possible immediate rainy season. In a post-lecture interview with students who attended the seminar, the overall lecture was deemed informative and well received.  This is what some students had to say about Prof. Mark’s presentation, Click here or below audio to listen to their voices.

 

UNIVERSITY OF LEEDS STUDENTS LAMENT OVER FURTHER CLASS DISRUPTIONS

University staff holding a placard in protest against pension cuts, source: the Guardian online

BY JRM

The University and College Union (UCU) and the Universities UK (UUK) have been embroiled in continuous negotiations surrounding the newly proposed academic pension cuts due to the UUK’s envisaged pension deficits. However, the proposals were received with much disapproval from UCU members, which erupted into a 14-day protest, compromising the university teachings. Despite sound justifications from both UCU (for the protest) and UUK (for pension cuts), the real victims of the whole contention are the university students across approximately 65 institutions around the UK, including the University of Leeds.

With no sign of willingness to compromise between UCU and UUK,  Leeds students are beginning to grow weary of the situation, with some already indicating the burning feeling the contention has towards their studies.  Despite students expressing their support for a stance against new proposals, they believe their studies are paying a heavy price with neither UCU or UUK seemingly appearing concerned.t Below is what students at University of Leeds had to say about the ongoing crisis between UUK and UCU: click here or below to listen:

 

GOVERNMENT PUTS PUPILS AT THE CENTRE OF INTEGRATION STRATEGY

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Picture of a Muslim lady (Taken from Pixabay.com)

BY JRM

The desire to construct a global village has increased human freedom of movement, making it possible for people to move across oceans and continents. However, this comes with a heavy burden for developed states that tend to attract more immigrants who are on a quest for greater opportunities as they flee from afflictions of the third world. When confronted with the reality, the western dream appears to be a fairytale to some, such as those who find it hard to jell with western culture, leading to inequalities and community isolation. 

To address this in the UK, the government has adopted an integration strategy (check BBC online and LocalGov) as a first step to bridge the gap that exist between natives and immigrants.  The strategy is informed by “the Casey Review”  which will be piloted in five UK councils, at an investment value of £50m. Despite, the understanding that national disunity is destructive for any progressive democracy, the UK’s strategic intervention seems to have taken an imposing approach rather than a consultative dialogue and mutual agreement between the government and affected parties. 

In addition, the integration strategy seems to tread on the borderline of some basic human rights such as the right to freedom of association, religion, belief, and expression. Key to the strategy is the imposing of British norms, culture, and customs to none British natives. Nevertheless, the strategy also aims to increase resources for English lessons to the targeted groups, with a belief that language barrier is one of the major contributing factors to inequalities. The assumption that English as a uniform language can address this remedy this crisis is also welcomed by some immigrants I interviewed. Click here or below to listen to some of the opinions expressed regarding English lessons and integration strategy

Nevertheless, unlike most government projects, what makes the integration strategy unique is its community-centric and education-centric approaches, which allows pupils to champion the transformation through community-based projects, reported BBC online. According to media reports, the strategy is believed, if successfully implemented will not only integrate different immigrants and none British into the British culture and systems but it will also enhance their chances of accessing better opportunities.