Yesterday we saw violent protests against the Coalition’s enormous increase in tuition fees. Who, I ask you, will be able to afford £9000 a year in fees alone? Of course, the very rich – how silly of me. The 26 millionaires in the Coalition Cabinet probably spend that before breakfast at least once a week.
Meanwhile it’s not quite like that on planet Earth. Young people are concerned they will either miss out on university or be saddled with so much debt their lives will be irrevocably tarnished. While I would never condone violence, I do understand that the students’ have very serious concerns.
I have recently come across another example of the Coalition’s unthinking devastation in education.
Since the start of the last century, young Britons have been travelling abroad to undertake teaching in a foreign school as part of the British Council Assistantship scheme. With radically improved language skills, a taste of foreign culture, and the chance to try teaching all on offer, it is not hard to see why thousands seek a place on the programme each year.
Next year, however, recruitment will not go ahead; the scheme has fallen victim to the Coalition’s ‘stringency’ measures. It seems that the teaching programme, which has manifest cultural and economic benefits, has been deemed unworthy of the £750,000 required to run it.
To me, this decision seems bizarre, an example of unthinking and myopic cost-cutting, and another display of disregard for the young. Facilitating increased mobility and cross-cultural exchange is demonstrably cost-efficient, improving job prospects by enabling young people to look beyond both language barriers and national borders when searching for training and has job opportunities.
Happily, the EU has recognised the huge gains to be made from such a strategy and has taken steps to encourage enhanced student and trainee mobility through the new ‘Youth on the Move’ initiative. I just hope that the outcry from past beneficiaries and future hopefuls will be enough to push the UK Government towards the same realisation.