Debate: Private schools should be abolished

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Education, education, education (but only for the rich): Private schools creates a two-tier education system and must be abolished. It’s no secret that our education system is wholly unfair, and if nationalisation of private schools will cost us money in the long term, it’s a price worth paying.

In September this year, the Labour Party Conference voted in favour of a motion to abolish private schools. The abolition of private schools would not only be levelling the playing field, but would provide poorer students with a fundamental level of education that they have a right to, yet whom are priced out from it under the current education system.

Around 40% of students at Oxford are from private schools, in comparison to the general population where just 7% of students were educated privately. This is a figure thrown around often but which should be repeated until people realise just how appalling this statistic is. It seems insane to continue arguing that Oxford and our education system are meritocratic when figures like these exist. Many of the private school students who oppose abolition are too scared of a world where they are without the privilege their private school afforded them.

But the problem is not just about the state-private school divide. It is about the current two class of citizens: those who can afford to pay for an education they deserve, and those who don’t get an education they deserve. Private schools create this divide and their abolition would not be about bringing everyone down to a lower level. Rather, it would be about redistributing the plentiful amount of resources Britain already has but which are controlled by those who have the wealth to buy more than their fair share.

This debate is about more than arguing about whether private schools create an unfair advantage. Clearly, they do. Instead, this debate is ultimately about whether the abolition of private schools will result in equality of education, rather than just removing top tier schools and leaving everyone in Britain with a lower quality of education.

When we have a system which creates an amount of inequality that is so detrimental to members of our society, and to our economy in general, we have a duty to ask whether we should do something about this.

Private school students try to justify their privilege by arguing that it is better that some have a good quality education than none. This is the fundamental reason why this proposal has been met with controversy. But such a fear of an entirely state school education system is misplaced. They argue that the policy would result in previously private schools just becoming subsidised by the state, resulting in government funds being wasted on more well-off students.

However, this need not be the case if the policy is implemented alongside a fair taxation system which taxes parents the amount they would have been paying towards their children’s education anyway. The only reason that parents may not desire a system such as this is that their money will end up going towards paying for the education of children whose parents would be unable to send them to a private school. To this I say, so what? And if their parents worked hard to send their kids to a better school? Some people’s parents couldn’t or maybe even didn’t – but is it the child who should be punished for this?

Still, some will be unable to accept that others should have equal opportunities to their own. Those who do are often the ones who shout the loudest about how we are punishing those who worked hard to become rich. Yet, this is simply allowing others the chance to work hard to live comfortably and breaking the chain of generational inheritance of wealth. In the process, we are punishing those who did little to earn their wealth beyond having the luck to be born into a well-off family.

When we have a system which creates an amount of inequality that is so detrimental to members of our society, and to our economy in general, we have a duty to ask whether we should do something about this. Some might ask: “Why should we try when it might cost us money?” While abolishing private schools is essentially nationalising them, all nationalisation policies cost the government money, but that isn’t an argument against doing them. Instead, this is about a sensible cost-benefit analysis which I believe whole-heartedly would weigh in favour of their abolition.

Just think of all the people who wanted to be doctors, or lawyers, or engineers, but were never given access to an education that enabled these dreams to be fulfilled. Most are now stuck in low-paying jobs, reinforcing the cycle of poverty, and denying our economy the kind of growth that a truly meritocratic system would create. That is the Britain we live in today. But tomorrow is knocking on the door in the form of a Labour government. Private schools are the root of Britain’s education problems, and it’s time we abolish them.

The counter argument to this article can be found here.

Image Credit: Juan Salmoral