Education has a pivotal role in shaping the country's human resources and adding value to the economy as well as welfare. Education enables a person to use his/her rationale to take ethically backed up decisions in life. Education makes an individual informed about his rights and cultural background. Education is responsible for inculcating moral values and enhancing knowledge-based confidence in individuals to help people in their professional life and explore their innate potential. But education is not limited to the institutes and comes with the explicit and implicit cost that will be thoroughly discussed in the essay (McGhee et al., 2018). There is evidence from the educational history of the UK that depicts education's part in favoring social inequality. The early pedagogy, educational norms, and the institutional structure constituted in widening the social inequality and generalizing the perception of social class differences among the general public. Education has always been subject to its use to formulate the structure of Society (Erola & Kilpi-Jakonen, 2017).
In the Victorian Era, the social gap between the students from different class groups was widest owing to the amenities that one group enjoyed and the other remained deprived of. Elite kids were raised by the governess and were sent to a public school that had a hefty fee structure. It was impossible for kids belonging to the middle class or lower class to pay such high fees and therefore remained deprived of quality education (Reay, 2018). This resulted in widening the inequality gap. Kids belonging to elite groups learned about leadership, sportsmanship, religion, and inculcated great confidence. While boys from the middle and lower class were sent to work to earn a living for the family. Elite girls were not sent to schools but they were taught to sew, cook, and play an instrument to prove their suitability for the marriage purpose. These skills were honed to add to the pride of their husbands in the future (Bywaters et al., 2020). John Pounds volunteered to teach poor kids free of cost. This is a significant incident to highlight because this is the true essence of education. Ragged School was an outcome of wisdom and education’s prime motive. The Poor Law Amendment Act 1834 included education for poor kids and ensuring that they were taught and taken care of by the state's workhouses. In 1844, the government realized the need to pass an Act requiring poor kids working in factories to attend schools six-half days of the week (Erola & Kilpi-Jakonen, 2017). In 1870, Education Act was passed that focused on public elementary education for kids between the ages of 5 to 12 in England and Wales. The schools were improved and funds were allocated to aid the operation of these schools. This Act was meant to achieve the objective of universal education. However, it did not include free and compulsory education for all kids. It was observed in 1861 that about 2 million children were deprived of primary education in the state. This was nearly 50% of the total population of Children in England and Wales. A significant segment was impacted by these laws but coping up with the increasing inequality gap was still a far cry. The poor law was not free from atrocities as depicted by 'Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens where the boys were not fed appropriately in the workhouse and not treated well by the master. Education was merely a formal obligation that needed to be addressed by the state (Reay, 2018).
The early 20th century witnessed the foundation of present-day social services like NHS when the liberal government realized the need for ‘national efficiency and laws Like 1906 Education Act were formed to accelerate education system to reach the deprived group of the society. The Forster Education Act, 1870 focused on making education compulsory for children between five to thirteen. The act sponsored by William Forster aimed at the inspection of state schools and public funding these schools (McGhee et al., 2018). Attendance of children was made compulsory and regular maintenance of these schools. This act was criticized by the elite class as their funds would be used to empower kids of the lower class and will bring change in the use of power by them. They feared the loss of status and increase in competition for their wards (Taylor, 2018). Established churches feared the loss of power to run these public schools on the account that religious teachings were not mandatory for schools. The comment of the Bishop of London on the Act was immoral and depicted the true picture of the society when he stated that the lower class must remain in the state of ignorance for the safety of the state and religion (Reay, 2018). The inequality was profoundly rooted in the society and it was challenging for the revolutionists to challenge this disarticulated form of unevenness. The act was not to empower the lower class but to make them suitable for employability and become resourceful for employers. Marx praised free education and eliminating state and churches' interference in education. Education Act of 1902 was highly controversial and included funding denominational religious instruction in the state's elementary schools owned by churches (Taylor, 2018). This act empowered local authorities to provide secondary schools and technical education. The motive behind these acts was to make the workforce more skilled and add to the economy but it was realized that education has a vital role to play in the formation and bringing change in the society (Bywaters et al., 2020). The elite group did not want the class difference to vanish and were against these laws because these laws used the state's funds to establish, maintain, and operate these schools. The schools did not only teach about the syllabus covered in the curriculum but the environment in which these children were taught. The values and organized culture of these schools were responsible for imparting discipline, punctuality, honesty, and cooperation among the children. Marxists viewed that this system created a subservient workforce in which individuals were exhorted to become bored of the monotonous jobs and add to the economy and wealth of the upper-class segment (Blossfeld et al., 2017). Education was molded to fit the needs of the elite class. It was felt by the state that the Poor Law legacy was depleting with the effect of the liberal government in the force. Means to eradicate inequality was still questionable but the government realized that it needed to establish resilient social reforms and laws to aid education in the state (McGhee et al., 2018). The 1942 Beveridge report proposed a national Insurance that aimed at welfare for all simultaneously by propelling family allowances, a national health service, and full employment to make the scheme achievable and affordable. The 'welfare state' included free universal secondary education in the 1944 Education Act. In the 1948 Children Act, kids were received into care by the local authority department (Taylor, 2018). This had resulted in the war effect that unified the nation to combat the Nazianz coup. Studies have shown that such laws have formed the base for contemporary laws regarding education that have resulted in significant in narrowing down the gap between social classes. However, education is still costly but the government has realized its role in providing quality education to all (Blossfeld et al., 2017).
World Wars have been significant in restructuring the educational institutes and values appended to them. The second world war had impacted the education system and social policies in numerous ways. For the first time, the British Government realized the need to make secondary schooling free for all in 1944. The system focused on allocating children to departments suitable for their skills and this was a revolutionary breakthrough for middle- and lower-class children. The education system was concentrated to hone basic skills that are reading, writing, and Arithmetic. Primary education was not promising enough and it was found that one out of every five individuals had difficulty with numeracy. Because these skills were focused upon in secondary schools and their existence in primary schools was omitted. In the 1970s the conservative activists highlighted that new teaching methods failed terribly and discipline had been eroded due to uneven distribution of focus between primary and secondary education. Another set of critiques highlighted that children were kept away from schools by families so that these kids can earn a living. Truancy led to increased absenteeism and stagnancy in the social inequality of the society. The households were not enough motivated to change their status and living standards due to a lack of information and stereotypical perception that earning a living was vital than having access to education (Diem, Young, & Sampson, 2019).
With the election of Margaret Thatcher, the education industry witnessed "the educational establishment". She transformed the industry to make it more resilient by establishing comprehensive schools and the amendments in the Education Law. But these attempts failed terribly as they led to widening the inequality gap. 'City Technology Colleges', 'Grant maintained schools' and ending the 'free milk for kids from five to eleven in public school were some notable works that received critical views from households of the UK. The social policies have undergone a drastic change in the rule of Margaret Thatcher who supported free-market play of supply and demand to increase the efficiency of the economy as well as the human resource. The conservatism rule from 1979 to 1997 has been regressive towards the educational system to provide equal chance to students from different backgrounds. It led to increased income inequality and education's prime motive started to blur. The British Labor party was back in 1997 with the leadership of Tony Blair. Some of the conservatism policies were intact as these laid the foundation of a comprehensive educational system but few amendments were carried out to make education accessible by all and narrow down the inequality gap. The move to shift the focus of comprehensive schools to chisel children's ability and skills was a step back towards the tripartite system. grant-maintained status was eliminated from the system (Diem, Young, & Sampson, 2019). The Labor party was formed by a group of socialists and activists who were determined to make education accessible for all and addressing the issues of the lower and middle class. 'Every Child Matters, an initiative by the state government was launched in 2003 that aimed at ensuring the safety, health, and satisfaction of children of the UK and achieving their well-being. ECM is one of the most effective and revolutionary initiatives by the government as it aimed at holistic development and ensuring the well-being of kids and young teenagers of the country (Woolley, 2017). It further led to the Children Act,2004 to give greater access to local authorities with proper funding to intervene in childcare and work in the interest of children. Labor Party has been proactive in addressing the needs of these kids and realized that these kids have been affected mentally because of the social gap between the high-income group and lower-income group of the society that deprived the latter class has access to equal essentials needed for well-being and quality life (Allen, & Bull, 2018). These initiatives and foundations worked in partnership with CAMHS to integrate the efforts and achieve the synergistic effect for improving the condition of individuals in the nation. Every Child Matters had numerous favorable outcomes in achieving the holistic well-being of kids from a disadvantaged group. The UK government has been putting efforts to reach out to every kid in the state to make quality life accessible by all individuals. Including mental health in the scheme helped many individuals to open about the effects on their mental health due to inequalities in society. Elite students were able to devote time and had access to hygienic studying conditions and were more confident but this segment needed support due to the social stigma and generalized perception and acceptance of the class difference (Woolley, 2017).
The 2010-2015 period marked the integrated efforts of liberal-conservative parties. However, conservatives held a more dominant place in structuring the policies. It gave way to the formation of free schools that did not follow the national curriculum and it aided the elite class's objective to let their kids have access to better educational quality and amenities as these schools were run by parents. The low-income group was not benefitted from these schools (Byrne et al., 2020). There were efforts by this coalition government to address educational inequalities by providing opportunities such as the Pupil Premium and spending on making higher education accessible by socially and economically deprived groups of individuals. Even after putting best efforts to achieve a higher rate of success to eradicate educational inequality, there were significant regional inequalities in the educational system. This period also marked the scrapping of EMA and it reduced the stay on the rate in Further Education consequentially (Woolley, 2017). The conservatism rule took over completely in 2015 and notable changes were observed in the Educational system thereafter. The 'Early-Stage Foundation Stage' that came into existence on 3rd April 2017, is another aspect of the government's efforts towards the betterment of all children and young individuals. It has been observed and realized that there has been a significant gap between the upper and lower class of the society and it has impacted the educational system in the UK. The education quality and accessibility still differ for an individual coming from an upper class and the individual belonging to a lower-income group (Allen, & Bull, 2018). With different social policies the government aimed at narrowing down the gap between the segments of the society and aid quality education for all. Initially, the motive behind making primary and secondary education accessible by the deprived group was to build a skilled workforce for the employers and it was unethical as it viewed education, not as a service provider aspect but to aid the selfish motives of the elite (Taylor, 2018). On the other hand, people from the backward class were reluctant to send their wards to school as they wanted their kids to earn a living because of high inflation and unavailability of basic resources. The cycle needed to be broken by effective social policies in place but political intervention has not been effective in eradicating the issue of inequality in society (Byrne et al., 2020).
Social inequality had existed in past and continues to stay with us in the contemporary era of science and advancement. It is obvious that by accepting the class difference, we are living in the past and it is impeding our growth as an individual, a group of individuals, and as a nation also. From an ethical point of view, we live in an integrated system where everyone has a role to play and therefore, everyone holds dignity and must be respected regardless of their class. Nature gives us a beautiful example that the system works and yields better performance if everyone is treated equally and has equal access to basic resources.
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