The ongoing pandemic and lockdowns implemented by countries across the globe have affected global education in manifold ways. In the UK, challenges to the education sector have multiplied, from the unequal transition to online learning, to issues with this year’s A-level results and uncertainties surrounding the reopening of schools and universities.
Given this bleak outlook, can Covid-19 pose an opportunity to improve the education system and bridge underlying inequalities, such as the long-standing attainment gap?
With this question in mind, we will dedicate our first term to evaluating the different ways in which the attainment gap can be bridged, in order to make a truly comprehensive education reachable by anyone. We will do this by extending our analysis as far back as possible, including secondary and primary education, as well as kindergarten. Moreover, we will combine an individual analysis with a group lens to gauge how educational inequalities affect different communities, evaluate the impact of curriculum content on student aspirations and achievement, and present a way forward to eliminate the barriers that students from disadvantaged backgrounds face throughout their education.
For instance, much research has been done on the positive impact of technology in education. However, the sudden shift to online learning at the start of the pandemic highlighted the important gap that currently exists in access to technology, with some schools across the UK reporting figures of up to 70% of pupils with no consistent access to laptops. Without conscious policymaking, technology can be a double-edged sword.
On the flip side, technology need not be the sole equalizer. From dance to music, language learning or sport, we will evaluate the ways in which a higher accessibility to complementary or extracurricular activities can positively contribute to pupils’ educational and personal development, bridging inequalities in the process.
In the second term, we will shift our analysis to higher education (HE). We will begin by analysing how the foregoing attainment gap can fuel, in extreme circumstances, a ‘school to prison’ pathway, exploring the often overlooked intersection between criminal justice and HE. Furthermore, we will aim to reveal how education can construct and reinforce certain representations of social issues and identities, illustrating the dangers of unequal representation as its effects reverberate beyond the classroom.
We will continue by assessing the ways in which Covid-19 has affected universities’ funding structures across the UK, and how these effects might be compounded after Brexit. Given the financial consequences of the pandemic, both to universities and students, we will evaluate existing alternatives to university funding and the current tuition fee system.
Many universities have defended the lack of changes in tuition fees for the 2020/2021 academic year, arguing that the quality of education will remain the same, despite the transition to distance learning and the difficulties faced by teaching staff. However, can we really determine what exactly constitutes a dip in teaching quality? And if so, how can the government step in to support universities and lift the financial burden from students? By asking ourselves these questions, we will evaluate how underlying issues of communication between students and faculties can be addressed to improve the overall university experience and make the university system more resilient in the wake of Covid-19 and Brexit.
We strongly encourage everyone to get involved with our Policy Centre! We are open to any proposals related to the foregoing themes and education policy making more broadly. If you would like to contribute to our research through the production of blog posts or policy papers, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Director, Education Policy Centre
Our Policy Centre:
I’m a final year BA International Relations student from Spain. As a truly global and interdisciplinary policy field, researching in Education permits us to compare various education systems and methods around the world. From looking at the relationship between education goals and specific political systems, to the global systemic inequalities present especially in higher education, there is a wide array of research options! It is this endless number of possibilities that fascinates me the most.
I’m a final year International Relations undergraduate student from Latvia. I’m passionate about using our research to promote change in education policy by uncovering and disrupting the structures that underpin inequality and continue to marginalise students from underprivileged backgrounds.
I am a final year War Studies student and have a keen interest in social inequalities in Higher Education following my involvement in the research project Widening the Bracket: Offenders in Higher Education. I am also interested in intersectional feminism and segregated housing/communities in Britain and have written for Kairos Europe and Addressing Health.
I am a second-year History student. I am interested in exploring the role of diversity within Education and the impact of social policy on this theme. I am keen to explore how a more representative curriculum and evolving technologies could bridge the attainment gap across social and ethnic backgrounds.
Our Working Group:
I am a second-year PPE student from Berlin, Germany. My main interest lies in civic education and how education can positively influence youth political participation, particularly those from less privileged backgrounds. In these times of social distancing, I would like to learn more about the nexus between technology and educational equality.
I am a second year English Literature student. I am interested in the intersection of education and power; particularly its uses and abuses as a social, political and cultural structure.
I am Stephanie Burrell, a fourth-year German and Spanish student. Outside of King’s I work as a contemporary dancer. I want to use this experience to contribute to research, policy-making and advocacy of the creative arts within education.
I’m a third year History & International Relations student from the UK. I’m looking forward to researching the relationship between education and class and considering how the attainment gap within education systems can be better bridged.