National control of education has become something of an international problem. Developed countries have allowed their respective federal governments to take control of education out of the sense that there is desperation to repair the system for students. The education system here, as in other countries, is in need of repair. However, the means of carrying out the end need to be closely monitored. The federal government’s idea of the manner in which schools should be performing is skewed since officials observe from a private office or from a government issued document quantifying student achievement. Such problems have led to the far reaching developments in the primary education of the United Kingdom.
Through media outlets, such as the “Guardian” and the “Times”, commentators have been able to voice their criticisms of Ed Balls’ design for the future of education in the United Kingdom. Ed Balls is currently the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families. The design has been involved in making sweeping changes in the structure of primary school heads and other changes. Anthea Lipsett in the “Guardian” discusses the improvement of “life chances and well being of children” through programs, which connect school heads of neighboring primary institutions. This corroboration of resources by multiple primary schools would allow school heads maintain a balance within the system to gain the requirements needed to meet Balls’ new mandates.
Additionally, Alexandra Frean of the “Times” voices a growing public concern in primary education and the pressure of test taking placed on students. Frean warns that continuation of current trends “means primary school pupils lose their childhood.” This use of language is very evocative, considering that people often equate the loss of one’s childhood to traumatic events; such as death of a family, bodily injury or psychological disorders. She also identifies the critical parties involved in the problem: the head, the parent and the pupil. Frean relies on the emotional aspect of the story to fuel interest in effecting change.
Moreover, both writers express the need for change in primary education. Even more importantly, though, is the fact that the current reform is not headed in the right direction. The difference in subject matter shows the diversity of issues pertaining to the core problem of affecting primary education in the United Kingdom. Lipsett’s and Frean’s articles, respectively, reflect the idea of expansion of federal influence on education. Whether it is a reference to Balls’ plan for restructuring school heads or the demeaning affects of pushing performance standards on students earlier in their academic careers, the message is clear. However, Lipsett tends to use a straight forward approach in arguing logic, as opposed to Frean’s method of tapping into her audience’s emotions.
Furthermore, other issues remain just as important to primary education reform. Budgeting and funding of teaching salaries has slowly declined over the past several years. With this decrease in wages, some of the most talented teachers have walked away from the profession in frustration and disappointment. Added to this problem, is the fact that, the federal government has increasingly held these same educators more accountable for meeting students’ needs. Another issue has been overall budgeting of the primary school funds. With funding coming primarily from public taxpayers, these schools have seen a significant increase in their overall budget. However, the issue remains that the budgeting of that money has been unsatisfactory. Concerns within the community have developed due to recent teacher strikes and questions of the physical safety of schools being chief topics of debate. Finally, without parental involvement, the students are raised within a culture that is not conducive to productive learning. The federal government is trying to make its mark by marginalizing this specific area of students which underperform. The individual student’s future is looming large in the shaky balance that has become the United Kingdom’s primary education system.
Currently, classrooms are faced with these same issues. The federal government’s believe in intervention has caused teachers to become disenfranchised about their careers. Also, high stakes testing has placed more pressure on both the students and teachers for performance, as opposed to an emphasis learning and application. The entire focus of primary education is the foundation of learning and application principles, not testing. This added pressure, along with the aforementioned issues, only cause undue stress on students that are, more than likely, already experiencing struggles. Thus, in a dire situation such as the current state of primary education, it is ridiculous to expect these students to perform, given the federal government’s demands. Perhaps, that is what the government is planning.
Personally, the federal government had just begun its endeavor of effecting education plans while I was attending primary school. The standardized tests were developed and taken, but the federal government did not publish and use them as political bait. For the most part, local government still controlled how the schools were funded and the expectations and performance levels were all outlined at that level. The schools which did suffer for lower performance were reformed through the school’s staff and administration, without the political influence of the federal government. The same socio-economic issues existed then. Teachers, however, experienced much more commensurate pay scales than the status quo. Also, the idea of school heads assisting one another with budgeting or other school matters was not an issue since the local government was able to satisfy the demand of the teachers, parents and pupils.
The media has a profound influence on society’s view of politics and government. This view can be even more significant, particularly, when it concerns a common community issue, such as primary education. For instance, Anthea Lipsett and Alexandra Frean, writers for the Guardian and the Times, respectively, explore the communal concerns of the current federal government’s involvement in primary education. From the expansion of its role, to the usage of the high stakes testing and finally the ultimatum to fringe schools, both authors respond to the federal government’s idea to effect positive change on education. These issues certainly have their place within the classroom and affect each student personally, as well as having residual problems.