Education

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.

Josh Ewell 

Director, Education Policy Centre

Our Policy Centre:

Josh Ewell

Director

I’m Josh and I’m a third year History student from Liverpool. I am very interested in how education policy can help promote aspiration and help the most disadvantages achieve their potential. Outside of uni I love playing badminton, reading and going out with friends. 

Email: policycentre@kingsthinktank.org

Monica Richards

Editor

I’m a second-year PPE student from Brighton, UK. I am keenly interested in educational inequality in the UK and factors which perpetuate this disparity, hence my involvement with Slipstream Education and Elevate Education. This year I hope to conduct a research project on drug education policy within secondary schools, focusing on benzodiazepine usage in Brighton. Outside of KTT I enjoy DJing, volunteering as a dog walker, and selling clothes!

Our Working Group:

Salma Duqah

Liaison and Working Group Member

I am a second-year PI’m a third-year International Development student. I am interested in exploring education as a vehicle for liberation, as well as the impact specialisation in education has had on society and culture. Outside of my studies, I enjoy cooking and reading!

Laura Maxwell

Hi, my name is Laura and I’m a final year history student at Kings. My policy interests are global health and education with a focus on disparities within higher education. When I’m not studying I’m working behind the bar, weight lifting and spending time with my friends. 

Yogietha Kirushnamoorthy

I am a third-year Chemistry with Biomedicine student. I’m interested in social mobility and diversity within the different levels of the education system. Outside of King’s, I volunteer at organisations that focus on improving access to education, supporting people from less advantaged backgrounds.