The Britsh Prime Minister, David Cameron, yesterday gave a resounding speech urging the public to stand up and take ownership. It is part of the new Tory mantra called the 'BIG SOCIETY'. So what is this 'BIG SOCIETY and what are the implications for educators / education especially in Higher Education (H.E)?
Cynics have dubbed this as cut backs to the welfare state through the back door, or a privatisation of public services such as education. I am not convinced since 13 years of a Labour administration bloated the public sector beyond imagination so that it accounts for a crazy 40 odd percent of GDP no wonder the BRIC countries are thrashing us economically! Granted the casino bankers took us to the brink but New Labour were not exactly saying no to their mega Tax receipts!!!
At the heart of the BIG SOCIETY, from what I understand, is that the social contract between the citizen and government has failed. Just because we pay our taxes we cannot merely expect public services in return. Since this breeds inefficiency and 'stop-go' policies as it is impossible to fulfil every person's / interest groups demands and crucially expectations.
For example if my neighbour is facing anti-social problems should I intervene or expect the Police to do their jobs? If a student is having personal problems should I help or leave it to the professional counsellor?
I think the BIG SOCIETY is designed to help solve the aforementioned social conundrums. Since if I am a responsible citizen it is in my interest that there I should be participating in a thriving local community that works in partnership with the public sector agencies such as the Police. This is not a new concept as ancient communities worked on theo-centric / communitarian principles. This is a win-win policy as theoretically individual and social needs / expectations / demands are efficiently fulfilled.
For H.E it means the entitlement of a degree for local students is over. Since, after 3-4 years of study the student will be expected to actively participate in society not just at a professional level. As an educator I will probably have to in still a sense of civics. Is that part of my remit? YOU BET!
So what happens to those students who don't make the grade and still want to go to University? I am sure there will other routes such as Further Education colleges who are already offering degree programmes.
Personally I believe this is a grand attempt spearheaded by the Conservatives, in the Lib-Con pact, to get the nation to sing from the same hymn sheet!!!
TIME WILL TELL…Rishi Faisal